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Many skills have a clear and predictable progression curve.

Assess your level.
Find a source of learning.
Work on the subject using that resource.

Congratulations, you’ve made progress!!

But what about leadership?

How do you develop such a specific skill? What concrete information can you base improvement in this dimension on?

Impossible? No, you just need the right tools!

A key element in leadership development is helping leaders cultivate strategic self-awareness.

In leadership development, as in other areas, the use of data is key to achieving measurable and objective results.

Developing strategic self-awareness through feedback from their surroundings helps leaders gain insight into how others perceive them. With this knowledge, they can target behaviors to change, those to capitalize on, those to reinforce… and implement these changes before seeking feedback again to measure their progress.

This is why, when choosing an assessment tool, sometimes the best answer is to use multiple tools.

Combining Assessment Tools for Leadership Development

The most commonly used tool to help leaders understand how they are perceived and to develop self-awareness is the 360-degree assessment.

The 360-degree assessment allows individuals to evaluate themselves and compare their self-assessment to evaluations from their superiors, colleagues, direct reports, and other key stakeholders (internal or external clients, partners, etc.).

Personality inventories help bridge the gap between 360-degree assessments, which focus on skills, and all dimensions that play a role in developing strong leaders. If you imagine an iceberg, experiences and skills are the observable and measurable behaviors and skills above the waterline. But the majority of the iceberg is below the waterline, where personality traits and values that are harder to see and develop reside. The combination of both tools can provide leaders with a detailed and comprehensive analysis of their leadership and reputation.

Another powerful aspect of combining 360-degree assessments and personality inventories is perspective. Feedback from a 360-degree assessment gives leaders a snapshot from a specific group of people in their current professional context. Scientifically validated personality inventories, on the other hand, are stable and predictive of performance. They provide an objective view that isn’t dependent on context or the feedback culture present within the organization.

Five Advantages of Combining 360-Degree Assessments and Personality Inventories

By adopting this combined approach, organizations and managers achieve a solid return on investment by offering a comprehensive view of the entire “iceberg,” not just what is visible on the surface. Here are five specific advantages of this combined approach.

Diversity and Inclusion in 360-Degree Assessment

From a diversity and inclusion standpoint, 360-degree assessments present certain challenges. Research has shown potential bias in evaluator feedback. For example, some studies have suggested that women tend to assess themselves more harshly than men, that evaluators tend to rate women more critically than men, and that women often receive vaguer feedback. This is why 360-degree assessments should be used as development tools, not selection tools. Scientifically validated personality inventories, on the other hand, don’t introduce this type of bias. They can show how individuals are likely to be perceived, without unconscious biases. It’s essential, with both 360-degree assessments and personality inventories, to highlight these elements to clients, allowing them to become aware of observable trends collectively in their organization.

Open Fields for Comments and Personalized Support Plans

As with all assessments, it’s essential to incorporate participant feedback to identify what leaders need to focus on in their current roles and organizational context. This can be achieved both through the feedback process itself and by creating personalized support plans. Support plans should provide leaders with a diagnosis of their current situation to focus on, a view for the future, and two to three targeted development areas.

Evidence-Based Assessments

Not all assessments are equal. In personality inventories and 360-degree assessments, it’s important to look for tools with strong normative data. Secondly, they should be supported by independent research demonstrating their validity. And thirdly, they should be based on a proven competency framework with data linking it to leadership success.

Many personality-type indicators are marketed as personality assessments, but they often only show leaders an “internal view” of themselves. In other words, this type of assessment tends to show leaders how they perceive themselves (their identity), not necessarily how others see them (their reputation). Yet a leader’s reputation is what most affects their career success.

Matching Competencies Between Assessments

A great way to use these tools together is to match the assessed competencies in the 360-degree assessment with the personality traits and motivations assessed in personality tools. A leader might struggle in a certain area of the 360-degree assessment but have personality traits correlated with strength in that competency. The leader can leverage these traits for their development.

Comparing Differences

Personality assessment results describe how others are likely to perceive a person. 360-degree assessment results describe how specific individuals—superiors, colleagues, direct reports, and other stakeholders—perceive that person.

Try comparing personality assessment results to the leader’s self-assessment in the 360-degree assessment and to the results from different groups of evaluators. By highlighting the differences between how the leader perceives themselves and how their colleagues do, you can help them identify how to steer their leadership development.

Ultimately, when used together, 360-degree assessments and personality assessments provide leaders with a more comprehensive view of the areas they need to progress in, allowing them to develop their leadership more effectively.