The Eight-Minute Test That Can Reveal Your Effectiveness as a Leader
August 13, 2013 Editor 0
How can I determine if I am a good leader, or perhaps even a great one? What are my strengths, and do any rise to the very highest levels? I know I have some weaknesses (as everyone does), but are any of them so appalling as to derail my career?
Many people have asked us those questions over the years. For a truly comprehensive answer, we always recommend a well-constructed 360 evaluation, in which your own views of your strengths and weaknesses are enriched by those of your boss, your direct reports, your colleagues, and other associates.
But as a first step that you can do on your own, we’ve developed an abbreviated self-assessment which you can take here. That will give you some sense of what your leadership skills may be and how they compare to others, right now.
It will take you about eight minutes, and you will promptly receive a feedback report, which will compare the way you’ve rated yourself with similar self-scores of 45,000 leaders in our global database. The survey will also measure your current level of engagement and satisfaction in your leadership role.
Obviously, a brief self-assessment is not as valid as a more-extensive assessment that includes feedback from 10 or more of your colleagues, but it will help you understand which of the 16 leadership competencies we measure — such fundamentals as thinking strategically, displaying integrity, focusing on results, taking initiative, developing others, championing change, exhibiting expertise — are your likely strengths.
A score in the 90th percentile means you have an outstanding strength. A score in the 10th percentile (meaning you’re worse than 90% of the people taking the test) may indicate a flaw so profound it could derail your career. We expect most of your scores will be somewhere in the middle.
But the answers may surprise you. You may think, for example, that your strong points are your technical skills only to find your own responses score you far higher on inspiring others than you might have believed.
With such an understanding you might embark on a personal development plan in which you move toward the goal of becoming an outstanding leader by developing a few of your middling strengths to the very highest levels. Sadly, we’ve found that fewer than 10% of leaders take the initiative to create a personal development plan with the explicit goal of becoming a better leader. Yet without a plan you are relying on luck and circumstance to make yourself more effective.
More’s the pity since, as is often the case, we find a straightforward approach to be most effective: Once you identify your strengths, we’ve found, the surest path to improving your overall leadership effectiveness is to pick one and focus on improving that.
Which one should you start with? Think about which of the leadership competencies you have the passion and energy to pursue. Working to improve a competence that you’re passionate about makes the possibility of change much more likely. At the same time, though, consider what your current organization both expects and needs from you. The intersection of your strengths, your passion, and your organization’s needs defines the ideal place for you to target your development.
Once you identify a competence that meets those criteria, what’s the next step? Can you turn a moderately scoring competency into a profound strength? The answer is yes, though perhaps not in the way you’d expect.
To improve a weakness, people typically use a linear approach. If you were a novice, for instance, who wanted to gain some technical expertise, you might take a class at the local university, read up on the subject, or ask an expert in your firm to be your mentor. But if you’re already strong technically you won’t get very much better with further classes or reading more than you already do.
Instead, you might use your already-strong technical skills to improve your leadership effectiveness if you learned, say, to communicate your expertise more effectively or teach those skills to your team. That is, you could strengthen your strength by developing skills that complement it, just as elite athletes do when they improve their already formidable talents through cross-training.
We have discovered in our research that between eight and 12 of these companion behaviors are associated with each competency. (You can see the entire set for all 16 differentiated competencies, and a fuller explanation of how to apply them, in the October 2011 HBR article “Making Yourself Indispensable.”) By focused attention to applying these companion behaviors, leaders can and do make striking improvements.
What are your own greatest competencies? We look forward to hearing your thoughts about the results you discover.
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