Let the person who hasn’t dreamed of being late for their final exam cast the first stone. Indeed, the idea of being tested is enough to send chills on par with a scene from an old horror film. We know that testing is for our own good: it gets us actionable data, and good data is worth its weight in gold across any organization.

Let’s go back to the unease around assessments. In order to incorporate assessments realistically into leadership development, it’s important to understand the true power and purpose of the testing mechanism in the first place. But one needs to understand that all assessments are NOT created equal and there is only a handful that meets this special need. Don’t be surprised, but most of the more sophisticated assessments required for true leadership development and assessment you have probably never heard of.


Set Consequences Aside

Where do assessments typically show up? At the beginning of the hiring process. We’re talking about the early stages of the selection period, where employees and employers are just beginning to decide if the other is a great fit or not. Yet that isn’t the only place to bring in strong assessments. Here are a few other points in the leadership development journey that make for great assessment rounds:

  • Right after hiring, where management is looking for proper fit and adjustment into the organization
  • Right before promotion, where it’s important to see if the individual can indeed move up to new responsibilities
  • Right after promotion, where it’s critical to examine if additional post-promotion training and adjustments are needed

See the pattern? Assessments are right, right, right. It’s time to see them in the proper light, as a tool that can help employers and employees alike. One of the biggest reasons why assessments are seen as negative is from the consequences that come about when the data indicates opportunities for growth and improvement.

At the heart of leadership development is constant, incremental, and realistic change.

Prime Factors to Evaluate Via Assessments

What do we want to know most about individuals within an organization? Multiple prime factors are worth examining, including behavior, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, critical thinking, and perceptual reasoning.

Yet one of the biggest weaknesses of assessments is that they tend to be less than three-dimensional. In other words, they don’t truly paint a perfect picture of the candidate. Assessments are still a great tool, but they must be viewed in their proper context. Without deeper examination, assessments can easily filter out otherwise great candidates.

Gaining Insight from Assessment

Again, it cannot be stressed enough: giving feedback directly based on assessment results tends to lead to negative outcomes. People are already defensive just from the testing process; there’s no need to make it worse.

We can learn some interesting insights from assessments, including the following:

  • High-potential individuals that are ready to move deeper in the leadership pipeline
  • Future job success (important for individuals ready to move laterally)
  • Potential character issues (but context is key in order to truly get the best picture of the individual)

Every organization will weigh different prime factors differently based on top-level goals, strategies, and industry. Yet the need for assessment is still present across the board. It’s important to look at validity within the assessment application.

Coming to Terms with Degrees of Validity

As mentioned in the book, assessments are not equal across the board. The biggest question is simple: to what degree has the assessment been validated, and how deeply has it been tested? There are plenty of homegrown assessments, in-house bits of alchemy that are shaped by the company directly.

There are also plenty of assessments that are shaped by psychologists looking to develop a brand in a space hungry for new dimensions of insight. However, as the saying goes: there is nothing new under the sun.

Major validity flag: Buros Institute’s Mental Measurements Yearbook. It’s a great reference for critiques of the leading assessments found regularly within the business sphere.

Assessments Are More Technical Than Meets the Eye

Like any powerful tool, assessments take time for full understanding. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor is it something that’s implemented overnight. Never stop evaluating effectiveness, intent, and inclusiveness. The business environment we know and connect with today is far different than it was in the 90s or even the 00s!

The complexity of the assessment process cannot be overstated at all. It is up to everyone connected to the management of leadership development to deconstruct assessments in a way that is effective, powerful, and relevant to the specific needs, objectives, and long-term goals of the organization.

Dive Deeper Into Feedback Processes With Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development

20,000 assessments over the span of 30 years? Absolutely. This deep dive into assessments holds multiple insights for today’s leadership development coordinators, developers, and management. Effective utilization of assessments is critical to the hiring process, and beyond.

Want even more on assessments? Check out the Strategic View of Hiring podcast episode, Exploring the World of Assessments.

Check out the book store and order a copy of Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development today.

To receive a copy of our Leadership Competency Inventory, complete with 64 competencies, just send an email.


Growth usually takes on one of two very distinct pathways: a linear path and an exponential one. The latter sounds great, right? Just pull a few levers and watch your organization reap the benefits of exponential growth, making all of your dreams come true. Wait till that next quarterly review, you’ll show them you mean business!

Except that isn’t the entire story, and consistent leadership development results are better than exponential growth that isn’t sustainable.

So why talk about exponential growth in the domain of creating better leaders in the workplace? Well, because it never hurts to have something to aspire to. It never hurts to see what can indeed happen when consistent action is scaled out. That’s the key to making leadership development a potent component in today’s fast paced business environment.

What does feedback really mean? We talk about feedback, but we know that not all feedback is created equal. Feedback should begin with empathy, which is truly understanding the other person's perspective. From there, we want to come forward with evidence that backs up the statements we're going to make to that person. Direct, professional, and straightforward is the name of the game here.

Feedback and accountability go hand in hand within the world of strategically assessing leadership strengths and weaknesses.

What Comprehensive Feedback Isn't

Sometimes it's important to highlight what something isn't before we can really start visualizing what it is constructively. If you want to build or even transform current feedback and accountability processes, here's what to avoid most:

  • Relying on one assessment. There is no perfect assessment, and it's critical to avoid idolizing any assessment as the One True Measure of performance

  • Keeping resources too narrow. This isn't about trying to use as few resources as possible. Pull out all of the tools and see what's reasonable in terms of the specific leader being refined for greater opportunities (the ultimate goal)

  • Don't settle for just covering strengths and weaknesses in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Full insight requires full analysis; KPIs are just a shortcut.

Collecting quantitative data is important, but don’t skip the opportunities to collect qualitative data along the way as well. For example,

Breaking Down Strategic Leadership Assessment - The Best Path Forward for Growth

In order to get the growth needed to stay competitive, it's time to go back to the drawing board. What does strategic leadership assessment look like in action? Well, the important point is that it begins with realizing the end goal: you're getting insight into an individual's makeup and identifying what their true strengths and weaknesses are. We're going back to the 3D Leadership model as one of the key foundational points of this plan.

Staying the Course

Motivation is a big topic in the business world because we're used to watching people quit. Why do people quit before they've reached the finish line? Sometimes it's a matter of not being able to visualize the end. Or perhaps it's not having enough milestones to reflect upon as they move deeper into their journey. Not everyone will finish their leadership development plan, or approach it with enthusiasm.

Reassurance isn't a bad thing, and it can help bolster morale to the point where employees buy back in. For entry-level employees, leadership development can feel impossible because they're starting their journey with a lot to cover. For the more seasoned leader, development often takes a "been there, done that" feeling.

Dive Deeper Into Refinement With Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development

Digging into the roots of better leadership development isn’t an easy journey. Yet it is absolutely essential for companies of all sizes.

Did you miss the deep dive on assessments? Check out the Strategic View of Hiring podcast episode, Exploring the World of Assessments.

Check out the book store and order a copy of Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development today.

To receive a copy of our Leadership Competency Inventory, complete with 64 competencies, just send an email.