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Cracking the Assessment Code
Learning leaders can use a four-step integrated assessment process to improve their ability to predict leadership success, even for senior-level roles.
During the last decade, there has been an explosion of leadership assessment instruments, methods and consulting firms providing this service. Yet, according to the New Talent Management Network’s 2011 survey on the State of Talent Management, only half of the 111 participating organizations indicated the practice of assessing leaders is “often or always” effective. Forty percent rated the practice as “sometimes” and 10 percent rated it “never” effective.These results highlight a significant gap between the last decade’s advancements in the science of leadership and assessment techniques and learning leaders’ perspectives on their return on investment.It also raises an important question for organizations that use leadership assessments or are considering them to help select and develop senior leaders: What can be done to improve accuracy of predicting future leadership success, especially for more complex senior-level roles where leadership behavior is complex and dynamic? Some tools and techniques, such as assessment and development centers, competency-based 360-degree surveys and some personality questionnaires have proven superior in their ability to reliably and accurately assess a leader’s strengths, weaknesses, values and flaws. Because of the complexity of leadership behavior, no single tool can be the silver bullet for leadership selection, high potential programs, development or succession planning. Practitioners should strive for a holistic and integrated assessment approach that builds from four key principles:
1. Leadership is a dynamic and complex behavior that requires agility and coordination of various competencies.
2. Complementary methods are needed for reliable and valid assessment of dynamic and complex phenomena.
3. A leader’s motives, values and psychological needs are paramount to assess role and organizational fit.
4. Integration with a learning and development path is a critical component of the assessment process.Leadership Is Dynamic and Complex
Leadership has many definitions and adjectives: situational, transactional, transformational or charismatic. In general, the propagation of definitions has been healthy for the field as it forced researchers and practitioners to fully appreciate how dynamic and complex leadership is, and therefore how challenging it can be to assess it. It also suggests the various dimensions of leadership should be examined through multiple lenses: behaviors, cognitive ability, values and personality characteristics as well as traditional behaviorally based competencies. Focusing on leadership through multiple lenses is especially important in leadership roles with a high degree of complexity, where simply scoring higher on a set of competencies won’t necessarily mean a greater likelihood of success in a future role.
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