Leadership – what are you measuring?


42Most people would agree they would like their leaders to be competent, knowledgeable, visionary, progressive and decisive with excellent interpersonal skills, innovative and open to new ideas. How about a propensity for self improvement, a desire to lead, an outgoing personality, a reasonable level of self acceptance, a balance of analytical and intuitive skills, a balance of diplomacy and frankness and a balance between assertiveness and helpfulness. There is, I am sure, an endless list of traits we would like our leaders and upcoming leaders to possess.

As a rule leaders tend to gain their positions through demonstration of exceptional skills in the operational side of their roles together with an enthusiastic and optimistic attitude and relevant experience. Operational expertise and experience are relatively easy to measure and as such dominate the decision making process of leader selection. But what of the rest? How do you measure all the traits mentioned above?

Many companies have introduced comprehensive work based competency frameworks – in some cases documents running into 30 + pages. Such frameworks clearly indicate the type of attitudes and competencies the organisation is striving for but rarely get it right when it comes to measurement. Measurement is often done on a scale based on the subjective opinion of as few as one person (often the manager), I have often spoken to Learning and Development specialists who don’t even use their own competency frameworks, not because they lack substance but because of their lack of user friendliness and reliability in measurement.

We have been working recently with an organisation which has just undergone a merger. Initially we worked with the smaller organisation who were fearful of being ’swallowed up’ by the larger and that prime jobs would escape them. We were able to help them position themselves and the outcome was very positive. Since the merger the organisation has been streamlining its talent management approach. They began with the senior team spending time identifying what an ‘outstanding’ organisation might look like. They came up with 23 behavioural traits they believed would be demonstrated in such an organisation.

So this is where the measurement comes in. Harrison Assessments measure 156 traits based on work based preferences. It is highly accurate and measures the very things mentioned above. The 23 traits were mapped across to produce a Harrison Assessment capable of measuring them. This has been incorporated into their appraisal system so that everyone in the organisation is measured against these basic traits. Staff are now able to have conversations around such things as ‘taking initiative’, levels of enthusiasm, optimism, ability to handle stress in difficult circumstances and so on.

The Assessments are also used for recruiting people into roles. They measure suitability for a role over and above eligibility – leaving nothing to chance and increasing talent management accuracy manifold!