Leadership Surveys – Good or Bad?

Amazing how behind you can get. I usually like to stay on top of certain readings around leadership – and have fallen behind. So, this past weekend – once the family cleared out of the house from Thanksgiving, I did some reading. Something from the Center of Creative Leadership caught my eyes. Do the leaders within your organization have the skills they need to be successful in the future? This is the basic question that the Center for Creative Leadership asked 2,200 leaders from 15 organizations, in three countries between 2006 and 2008. Reported out June 2009! 

The findings from this research project identified the following seven leadership skills as most critical for success (they listed 20), now and in the future:

  1. Leading people: directing and motivating people.
  2. Strategic planning: translating vision into realistic business strategies, including long-term objectives.
  3. Managing change: using effective strategies to facilitate organizational change.
  4. Inspiring commitment: recognizing and rewarding employees’ achievements.
  5. Resourcefulness: working effectively with top management.
  6. Doing whatever it takes: persevering under adverse conditions.
  7. Being a quick learner: quickly learning new technical or business knowledge.


Reading on the study took a twist, talking about over-investment of certain strengths. Over-investment is that list of strengths that the organizations responding thought they had a strong bench strength.

  • building and mending relationships,
  • compassion and sensitivity,
  • cultural adaptability,
  • respecting individual differences,
  • composure,
  • and self-awareness.

“In organizations where this is the case, sufficient skill-level has been established in these areas and further large-scale efforts to boost these areas are unnecessary.” I was a little shocked by – not considered important and is over-invested.. Look at the list again, I was taken back because I think most people get themselves into trouble for not doing these. Another part that comes up – these look like they have some direct and at least an indirect effect on the seven hot ones.

Respecting individual differences and lack of self-awareness are two popular ingridents of failure. The fact that we think we have these skills sufficiently mastered to render them unimportant suggests that we have blind spots that have not been fully explored.

Within the study, “The ‘important’ list includes ‘leading people’ and ‘inspiring commitment’ – were singled out from respondents that they are not very good at. Not sure about you, but for me; if you spent some time building and maintaining relationships – that could help tremendously.

If leadership is about anything, it is about relationships. I am so glad I did not take the survey.. Maybe it is the questions, maybe it is the analysis or maybe it is really not understanding leadership… I do agree that at times some competencies are more important, but when the core of some need others – well, they are both important. Especially when you look at the failures (or even the successes).