The Mechanics of Conducting an Executive Leadership Assessment

by | Jun 10, 2019 | Leadership

Business people having a discussion in cafeteria

Executive leadership assessments are a way to gain valuable insight, not only into areas in which your leaders excel but also to those that need more attention. Whether you are applying leadership assessments to new hires or your current team, they are a highly beneficial tool that can improve your culture and identify raw talent that might not be immediately evident.

For the executive, having a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses can only support the efforts to become a more effective leader.

For the potential leader, gaining insight as to what areas require improvement will significantly reduce the risk of derailment.

Performance Vs. Potential

It’s important to note that assessing leadership potential is about the possibilities – not just the status quo at the moment. Performance and potential are two very distinct concepts. Just because an employee is a high-performer does not mean that he or she has strong leadership qualities.

The truth is, most companies don’t do an outstanding job of identifying leadership potential among their employees. Some choose their leaders based solely on their personal experiences with the individual, fortified with past performance reviews. One study, conducted by Martin and Schmidt (2010), found that 40 percent of all internal leadership promotions fail.

Though it can be a mitigating factor, strong leadership potential is not just about experience or tenure at the company; it is just as much about having the capability to grow and improve. Like all things, your business will ebb and flow. It makes sense that your executive leaders should have that capacity as well.

The difference between a high-performer and an executive leader has much more to do with agility than merely being able to perform key functions. As expectations increase, so do the challenges. Whereas a perfectly competent manager might get the job done, the executive would maximize the value of the task for everybody’s benefit. It’s the difference between short-term and long-term thinking. It’s the difference between a transactional and transformational approach.

Leadership Markers: Understanding The Mechanics Of Leadership

Executive leadership assessment is a multi-layered process. Assessment tools, either an established protocol or something you develop yourself, can be beneficial. Before diving in, however, you should have a good understanding of the principles that indicate leadership potential.

The result of extensive research and data collection, these seven attributes are widely viewed as reliable indicators of leadership potential:

  1. Strategic thinking, including the ability to deal with ambiguity.
  2. Interpersonal skills, including maturity, resilience, stability, and dominance.
  3. Adaptability, including the capacity to learn, learning agility, and willingness to accept feedback.
  4. Leadership skills, including the ability to manage, influence, and inspire others.
  5. Motivation, including engagement, drive to succeed, focus on results, risk-taking, and energy.
  6. Performance, including leadership experience and past performance.
  7. Values and knowledge, including cultural suitability, plus technical skills.

Leadership Assessment Tools

In terms of assessing these values, there is a multitude of tools you can apply to support your efforts. Assessments like CliftonStrengths, Hogan Assessments, and The Leadership Circle are among the top performers in this space. There are plenty more, but some individual research should be applied to determine which ones will be most appropriate for your culture.

All of these tools can be very helpful in determining suitability for a position. They address the seven markers listed above and give you a better understanding of how the candidate will perform. Even if you do not intend to place the candidate in a leadership position right away, it can give you some indication of what the future may hold and help you direct your mentoring activities appropriately.

These assessments can also be reapplied periodically to gauge the employee’s progress. Coupled with real-world exercises and honestly given and accepted feedback, these efforts can put the hard truths on the table. Once an employee expresses their desire to improve, it paves the way for trust, cooperation, and learning opportunities.

Executive Leadership Success

Leadership ascension is a delicate task. You will, along the way, invest a great deal of time and resources into ensuring you have the right person in the position. You may think you have the raw talent in-house, but are they truly ready for what you have in mind? Taking a systematic approach is critical to your success – and theirs.

To learn more about how we can help, reach out today.

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