Creating self-aware, effective and balanced leaders

Creating self-aware, effective and balanced leaders

A lot has been written about the need for leaders to be aware of their strengths, their styles and their talents. But how can leaders become more self-aware? Once they have this knowledge, where should they go with it?

The 360

Leaders are pretty aware of their strengths. They named them and used them to get to their current position. They might have a nagging worry that there’s something they aren’t doing well or enough of. And there are probably subordinates who can readily name a few of their weaknesses. But to get to a meaningful picture of the leader, a 360 is an excellent tool.

In a 360 review, peers, superiors and reports are asked to anonymously provide feedback on all aspects of a person’s behavior. It’s a formal process that can be initiated by the leader or by someone in HR.

Being part of a 360 can be a little intimidating. The reviewers may fear having their comments recognized by their word choices or examples shared. The leader being reviewed may fear harsh or unfocused comments. The Everything DiSC 363 for Leaders mitigates those fears by making them more truly anonymous and relevant. Comments aren’t open-ended; they are chosen from a list of behavior-focused examples.

After the feedback

It’s common for any of us to want to focus on our strengths. The 360 can bring those into sharper focus for the leader. But is that enough? Is a strength-based approach to leadership the most successful for the leader and the leader’s organization? Recent research by Inscape Publishing, Inc. conducted with thousands of leaders and their raters shows that it is not. As the Inscape Publishing leadership explained in a recent article:

… we were curious: “How are personality characteristics relevant to leadership?” What we found surprised us. Those leaders who receive globally high ratings of leadership effectiveness not only excel in particular areas of strength such as their primary leadership dimensions, but they also stretch beyond their default settings and cover more area of our circular leadership model.

Mark Scullard, director of research at Inscape Publishing, explained in an interview:

If the strengths-based approach was correct, what we’d expect to see is that people who are rated as good leaders over all [via the Everything DiSC 363] would just be doing two or three things really well and they could be low on all the other eight. And, in fact, we would expect to see poor leaders as people who really weren’t doing just about anything well. Maybe they were doing the things that came naturally to them and working on their strengths, but they weren’t really capitalizing on them—weren’t really maxing those things out. Well that’s not what we found at all.

What we did find is that leaders who got good global ratings of effectiveness were people who were doing each of the eight dimensions. Most of them were doing at least seven, if not all eight…. Poor leaders, on the other hand, … these people were actually using their strengths. They had on average two to four different strengths that were really pronounced for them. Those people actually were using what some might call the strengths-based model, and still people were responding “that’s not enough.”

In a survey of 50 global companies, research firm ISR found a direct link between effective leadership and financial performance. In organizations whose employees rated their leaders as “average,” sales improved a little more than six percent in a year. In organizations whose employees rated their leaders as above average or higher, sales rose more than 10 percent. — Source: Symonds, 2009

It’s important for your organization to really look at its leadership. Do your leaders exhibit skills in all dimensions of leadership? Are they great? Do they need some coaching? Do they need help becoming more self-aware?

Editor’s note, 2012: Inscape was purchased by John Wiley & Sons

by Kristeen Bullwinkle and the team


1 Comment


  1. […] You might also enjoy a previous blog post: Creating self-aware, effective and balanced leaders […]

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