Sunday, June 22, 2008

Guide to Leadership Assessments

I’m often asked is there’s such thing as a leadership “test”, or some kind of assessment to determine how good a leader someone is. While there’s no single silver bullet for assessing leadership capability (at least I don’t think there is, no matter what the assessments salespeople try to tell you), there are a number of useful assessments that can give a leader insights into their development needs.

There are hundreds of assessments out there, and some of them are downright silly (the “Find your Star Wars Twin” assessment). It’s always best not to overly rely on any one assessment, and instead look for feedback from a number of sources.

The following list only represents tools I’m familiar with, have personally used (oh yes, every one), and can recommend:

360 Assessments

I think these are the best way to get a handle on your leadership strengths and weaknesses. I like them because they are usually more likely to lead to behavior change and positive results. A 360 assessment, or multi-rater assessment, usually consists of a list of questions based on a set of leadership competencies. You can buy an commercial assessment that's based on a proven competency model, or create your own based on your own model.

The leader usually selects their own raters (better for buy-in), and someone else (internal or external administrator, or web-based service) sends it to their boss, direct reports, peers, and others. Individual ratings and comments (other than the bosses) are anonymous, and grouped together by category.

360s can be used for performance assessment (results go to boss, HR) or for development(results go only to leader). Both have their places, with advantages & disadvantages. The important thing is to be transparent about it.

Here are are number of great 360 assessments:

1. The Center for Creative Leadership's Benchmarks . Benchmarks is a comprehensive 360-degree assessment tool for experienced managers that measures 16 skills and perspectives critical for success, as well as, five possible career derailers. Benchmarks offers an in-depth look at development by assessing skills developed from a multitude of leadership experiences, identifying what lessons may yet to be learned and helping the executive determine what specific work experiences need to be sought out in order to develop critical skills for success.

Benchmarks requires certification to administer it, and costs $295, with volume discounts (let's assume all have volume discounts). It's available in multiple languages.

2. The Leadership Practices Inventory. The Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) is a 360 degree Leadership assessment instrument created by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner which has been used to assess the Leadership behavior of nearly one million Leaders worldwide. Historically available in paper format, LPI Online offers a more automated, less labor intensive way of administrating the Leadership Practices Inventory. No certification is required, costs $125, available in multiple languages.

3. Development dimensions International (DDI) has a number of assessments, but the 360 I like is The Leadership Mirror. Available in multiple languages, costs depends.

4. Personnel Decisions International's (PDI) The Profilor. The PROFILOR is a comprehensive 360 feedback tool designed specifically for training and development purposes. It's fully customizable to reflect your organization’s terminology and/or competency models.
Available in 11 languages. Over half of Fortune 100 relies on the PROFILOR to assess development needs. Cost vary.

5. Lominger's Voices. Another research-based 360° assessment with access to Lominger’s Library of 67 Competencies, 19 Career Stallers and Stoppers, 26 Clusters and 8 Factors, 7 International Focus Areas, 10 Universal Performance Dimensions, and 356 Behavioral Aspects. Cost $210, requires certification to purchase, available in multiple languages.

Personality/Preferences/Style Assessments

These kind of assessments don't really measure leadership capability, but they can provide a leaders additional insights into their behavior. For any of these, there's no good or bad profile, and results should be used only for development, not performance assessment.

6. MBTI Complete. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument is a questionnaire designed to make Jung’s ideas about psychological type useful in everyday life. It identifies a person’s four basic type preferences that combine into one of 16 different personality types. These results help you understand normal differences in the way people think, communicate, and interact—differences that can be the source of much misunderstanding. The MBTI instrument has been used for more than 50 years to establish greater understanding between individuals, and has been translated into more than 15 different languages for use around the world. Cost is $59.95, and the online Complete requires no certification.

7. Behavioral Style DISC™ Profile. There's a lot of suppliers who sell this assessment, I linked to a reputable local provider I use. DISC Provides leaders insight into their behavioral characteristics, communication style, and behavioral adaptations to their work environment. It's usually used for development, but can also be used for team building and selection (if properly benchmarked). No certification is required, cost varies. Not sure about languages, I'm sure some one's translated it.

8. Workplace Motivators. Same provider. This one identifies interests, attitudes and values held by a leader —the primary driving factors behind a leader's behaviors. It can be used for development and selection applications. No certification required, cost varies. Not sure about languages.

9. Social Styles. The SOCIAL STYLE Model is a tool for understanding our basic behaviors and the impact we have on others. I like it because it's easy to understand and remember. There's a self perception, and a more accurate multi-rater assessment. Not sure about the costs and other details, I haven't used this one in a while.

10. And finally, here's the leadership assessment that I believe to be the most accurate and useful. It requires no certification, is available in any language, and best of all, it's free. It's called "asking for feedback". Ask your boss, your employees, your peers, your family, and anyone else who's opinion you value. Go ahead - try it. Just remember to listen, shut up, and say "thank-you".


Anonymous said...


This is a really useful listing. By the way, some interesting research just came out, comparing MBTI, DISC and Social Style. It turns out Social Style scored highest in terms of people being able to understand and make use of the tool. I was thrilled to hear it, because I'm a big fan of Social Style for exactly those reasons. I've found it the most practical of these tools, in terms of helping people see what they can do differently to create better relationships with wider variety of people.

I just added you to my blog roll, too - rock on!


Dan McCarthy said...

Erica -
What's your blog?

Dan McCarthy said...

Erika -
Sorry, didn’t recognize you (Simplest Thing) – I even misspelled your name!

Chris Morgan said...

Hi Dan - thanks for the useful list and recommendations.

I really like the Insights tool for it's simplicity and ease of understanding. People seem to 'get it' quickly and it is great for raising self awareness. See

My favourite 360 tool is the Extraordinary Leader. In addition to the usual 360 benefits it also benchmarks you against world class leaders from consistently high performing organisations. This can be quite a leveller for some people....or quite a positive surprise for others!

Regards - Chris

Anonymous said...

Great post, Dan, both for the insights and the pointers. The best part is the end, the assessment anyone can use. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that note on recent research, Erika. When I developed my supervisory skills training we chose Social Styles because we found in live trials that supervisors could use it in their day to day work. I prefer the Alessandra/O'Connor ( version to Tracomm's because I like the fact that their book lets a reader fine tune his or her understanding of the concepts.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock

Steve Waterhouse said...

If you liked DISC and MBTI, you might really like
Predictive Index assessment. It
gives you a different perspective that my clients love. You can find a PI
representative at

Steve Waterhouse

Craig Chappelow said...


A very nice roundup of 360 assessments. I manage our 360 business here at CCL, and would have created the same list of vendors if someone asked me who I think is doing responsible, scientifically-developed work in the 360 space. While all of the 360s offered by these vendors are different, a client could not make a bad choice by going with any of them.

Craig Chappelow
Global Assessment Portfolio Manager
Center for Creative Leadership

Dan McCarthy said...

Craig -
Thanks, nice to hear from one of the experts!

Ray Wells said...

Dan - have you considered the strengths-based assessments at all - the Strengthsfinder or the VIA? I have used the Strengthsfinder along with the MBTI for about ten years and like the combination for increasing general self-awareness. Thoughts?

Serge said...

If perhaps a time will come that you, as a company owner, would need to select the cream of the crop from your employees to take on a management position, you could have them answer a DiSC profile assessment to help with your decision.