How to Become a Balanced Leader

A lot has been written about the need for leaders to be aware of their strengths, their talents and leadership style. How can leaders become more self-aware ? Once they are self-aware, where should they go with it ?

How to become a balanced leader: using the 360

Leaders are often quite aware of their strengths. They put a name on them and use them to get to their current position. They might have a nagging worry that there’s something they aren’t doing well or enough of. And there are probably some subordinates who can readily name a weakness or two. However, the best way to get to a meaningful picture of the leader is to use a 360, an excellent tool for feedback.

In a 360 review, peers, superiors and reports are asked to anonymously provide feedback on all aspects of a person’s behavior. It’s a formal process that can be initiated by the leader or by HR.

Being part of a 360 can be a little intimidating. The reviewers may fear to have their comments recognized by their word choices or examples shared. The leader being reviewed may fear harsh or unfocused comments. The Everything DiSC 363 for Leaders mitigates those fears by making comments more truly anonymous and ensuring they are relevant. Comments aren’t open-ended; they are chosen from a list of behavior-focused examples.

 After the feedback

It’s common for many leaders to want to focus on strengths. The 360 can bring those into sharper focus for the leader. But that might be insufficient. Is a strength-based approach to leading the most successful for the leader and the leader’s organization ? Recent research by Wiley conducted with thousands of leaders and their raters shows that it is not. As Wiley’s leadership explained in a recent article:

… we were curious: “How are personality characteristics relevant to leadership?” What we found surprised us. Those leaders who receive globally high ratings of leadership effectiveness not only excel in particular areas of strength such as their primary leadership dimensions, but they also stretch beyond their default settings and cover more area of our circular leadership model.

Mark Scullard, director of research at Inscape Publishing, explained in an interview: If the strengths-based approach was correct, what we’d expect to see is that people who are rated as good leaders overall [using Everything DiSC 363] would just be doing two or three things really well and they could be low on all the other eight. And, in fact, we would expect to see poor leaders as people who really weren’t doing just about anything well. Maybe they were doing the things that came naturally to them and working on their strengths, but they weren’t really capitalizing on them—weren’t really maxing those things out. Well, that’s not what we found at all.

What we did find is that leaders who got good global ratings of effectiveness were people who were doing each of the eight dimensions. Most of them were doing at least seven, if not all eight…. Poor leaders, on the other hand, … these people were actually using their strengths. They had on average two to four different strengths that were really pronounced for them. Those people actually were using what some might call the strengths-based model, and still, people were responding “that’s not enough.”

In a survey of 50 global companies, research firm ISR found a direct link between effective leadership and financial performance. In organizations whose employees rated their leaders as “average,” sales improved a little more than six percent in a year. In organizations whose employees rated their leaders as above average or higher, sales rose more than 10 percent. — Source: Symonds, 2009

It’s important for your organization to consider looking at its leadership. Do your leaders exhibit skills in all dimensions of leadership ? Are they great ? Do they need some coaching ? Do they need help becoming more self-aware ? You now have some answers and choices to do something with them.

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