A well-though-out leadership assessment approach

Most leaders look good on paper – they are confident, they work hard and they are smart – and yet most of them fail to live up to expectations, according to Jeffrey Cohn and Jay Moran in their book Why We are Bad at Picking Good Leaders: a Better Way to Evaluate Leadership Potential. The book describes how there are seven key leadership attributes – integrity, empathy, emotional intelligence, vision, judgment, courage and passion – and good leadership selection decisions depend on accurate assessment of these attributes.

  • Integrity is the fundamental leadership attribute. It includes honesty, consistency and solid ethics. It can be assessed with 360-degree referencing and with questioning involving hypothetical hard-to-recognize ethical dilemmas.
  • Empathy is important for creating trust in followers. One way to assess a leader’s empathy is through a simulation exercise requiring decisions and communication under strenuous conditions.
  • Emotional Intelligence can be assessed through group 360-degree interviews and through questions designed to probe a leader’s awareness of his or her own weaknesses and willingness and ability to learn from mistakes and grow.
  • Vision is what enables leaders to take people to a new place. It can be assessed through a leader’s ability to ask big unusual questions and articulate a theme as a story.
  • Judgment is what a leader relies on to achieve a vision. Hypothetical case studies which require problem-solving ability provide one way of assessing this attribute.
  • Courage and grace under pressure are required when a leader faces inevitable conflicts, competing forces and adversity. The attribute can be assessed by probing a leader’s commitment to core values, ability to navigate uncertainty, and patience to endure.
  • Passion provides a competitive fire necessary to overcome obstacles. It can be assessed through questions designed to dig beneath the surface to find out where the leader’s drive comes from.

There are plenty of books on leadership which describe the character and attributes of a good leader, but there are few which give detailed insight into ways of assessing each of those attributes in a potential leadership candidate. This book provides a convincing description of the well-thought-out leadership assessment approach used by the authors, and anyone involved in leadership selection will find it useful.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *