Leadership Assessment – When is it needed and how can you use it?

Leadership Assessment – When is it needed and how can you use it?

Appointing someone to a leadership role, always comes with a risk. Something the 81,326 voters for Liz Truss are all too familiar with.

When recruiting for some of the most senior leadership positions within your teams, you’re given a couple of pieces of paper outlining a person’s entire career history and a handful of well prepared for meetings.

Even if the appointments are internal, it can be difficult to accurately judge whether an individual is capable of being a great leader.

What even constitutes a great leader?

Every organisation, and every role will value different characteristics. The most common traits our clients need to ascertain include:

  • Are they collaborative?
  • How resilient are they?
  • Are they able to put the organisations objectives above their own agenda?
  • Will they be able to influence and persuade teams during periods of change?
  • Do they understand the importance of putting people over strategies?
  • Will they inspire people?

These are all intangible qualities that are difficult to assess at interview. Which is why Leadership Assessments can be such valuable tools when making these types of decisions. The use of external Leadership Assessment services by organisations for their current and potential new staff is increasing significantly.

For our assessment packages, we partner with John McFarland, an expert in Leadership Assessment with over 20 years’ experience in developing talent management initiatives, development and bespoke training courses. John has worked with a wide variety of blue chip and public sector organisations including OFCOM, Transport for London, the Department for Transport and the United Nations.

We caught up with John to understand how companies can get the most from leadership assessment.

1. What does good look like?

To start with, businesses need to take a conceptual viewpoint. Where are you now, where do you want to be, what qualities do you need to get there.

If you want to identify future leaders, there needs to be some kind of benchmark. What are you looking for in terms of leaders of the future. This needs to be tied to the strategy and objectives for the business.

Once you’ve identified this, you can establish what competencies and qualities your business needs to achieve this? What gaps do you have in the current team or potential successors of that team?

You can then build a development process around those key competencies.

2. Self-Assessment

The most common form of leadership assessment comes in the form of online psychometric tests.

There are bundles of tools available for various types of testing, whether it be personality profiling, situational tests or ability tests.

The most prevalent type of psychometric testing within Executive Search is personality profiling. For this, there are two main categories; understanding what type of personality you have or what personality traits you exhibit.

Type tools are good for team building; understanding who in the team is the leader, who is the creative mind, who is the motivator. But these methods tend to just pigeonhole people into set categories, which isn’t overly helpful for a recruitment selection process.

For recruitment purposes we are most interested by trait-based tools which give you an idea about a candidate’s personality characteristics and give each individual a unique score. These reports will indicate if someone has the potential to succeed in the role.

In terms of what options are available John suggests three main tests; SHL’s OPQ32, Saville’s Wave and Cubiks’ PAPI. All three are quite similar and based on the same theory and methodology. We prefer to use OPQ32 tests on behalf of our clients, with a report tailored to the most important competencies for that specific role.

OPQ32 is comprised of 104 questions online, each question gives three statements and the candidate has to choose which is most describes you and which least describes you. It is assessing 32 personality characteristics and takes c20-25 mins to complete online. Beforehand sending out the questionnaire, you would need to identify which characteristics are most relevant to the role. The report will then summarise how strong the individual’s preferences and personal drivers are relating to those specific core competencies. John recommends no more than six core competencies per role.

3. Face to face assessment

If you really want to do a deep dive, then you might want to consider face to face assessments to compliment the online psychometrics.

This can be used to measure their experience as well as their practical abilities. Face to face assessments combines competency-based interviews with real life business simulations.

Candidates will usually be asked to read a case study based around a fictious company and then they will analyse the information and present their findings in the form of a SWOT analysis with strategic recommendations.

Alongside this, candidates may be asked to carry out one-to-one meetings such as a stakeholder or an employee meeting. This gives a first-hand view into how well that candidate can manage and develop relationships, demonstrate effective influencing skills, or coach and motivate their team.

Making key leadership hires or planning for succession is critical to the future of the business. You need to know that the person you are appointing has the ability to deliver strategies, but also that they will be able to algin themselves with the values of the business.

For these key hires, often interviewing alone won’t give you a big enough picture of their abilities.

Get in touch to find out more about leadership assessment.

Author: Jim Newsom

Jim Newsom

Managing Director