The test of leadership

The use of psychometrics in developing leadership

test of leader

Psychological instruments have been around for years. Originating from ancient China as a means of assessing officials and leaders, by the nineteenth century, psychological testing was widely adopted in Europe and the United States. Psychometrics assess observable and measurable action. They are used to measure personal traits as well as predict outcomes. Modern psychological instruments were originally utilized for intelligence testing but are now widely used by newspapers, magazines and online tools to self-score anything from stress to sexual performance.

The five most commonly used psychological instruments for developing leaders within large organisations are outlined below (not in any order of preference).

Myers Briggs-Type-Indicator (MBTI)
A typological model created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers in the 1940s to measure preferred personality types. It has 94 questions 4 dichotomies and 16 types.

Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode Instrument (KTI)
tomas kilman
An axes based model developed by Kenneth W Thomas and Ralph H Killman in the 1970s to measure one’s preferred style of conflict . It has 30 paired statements and 5 styles.

Change Style Indicator (CSI)
An indicator model on a single axis developed by Discovery Learning to measure one’s preferred style to approaching change. It has 20 questions and 3 styles.

Learning style Inventory (LSI)
david kolb
An axes based model developed by David Kolb in the 1970s to measure preferred learning styles. It has 12 sentences and 4 styles.

Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i)
reuen baron
A typological based model developed by Dr Reuven Bar-On in mid-2000 to measure preferred emotional response. It has 133 questions, 5 realms and 15 scales.

Good practice
A few years back, the only way of administering these inventories was face-to-face with booklets and pencils and it was very time consuming handing out the materials, setting up the environment, giving participants time to fill out the questionnaire (some would invariably take longer because English was not their first language) and then doing the scoring and processing the results. Nowadays it is best done online at a click of a mouse. This gives participants time to go at their own pace to have the questions in their own language and to do some background reading and research of the different styles. This frees up time to design simulations or discussion groups around the finding of the psychometric during face-to-face time.

It is important to stress when facilitating these inventories that there is no right or wrong style… just difference. A neat little exercise to quickly illustrate this is have the participants sign their name with their regular hand and then to sign their name with their other hand. They can sign with both hands, but one way feels different than the other.

It is always good fun and interactive to run a series of discussion groups where similar styles can engage with each other and then mix with other styles and do a group teach.

Advantage of psychological inventories
• They are a useful way of identifying and measuring a range of styles and behaviours and for the leader to assess their positioning
• If presented correctly, they can help the leader appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of their dominant style
• They can be an enabler and encourage leaders to flex their style

Shortcomings of psychological inventories
• What you put in is what you get out. These inventories are designed to calculate a result based on the inputted data. Sometimes the result will simply reflect the leaders’ distorted vision of themselves
• They can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. People can start to label themselves and justify their own dissonant behaviours by blaming their dominant style
• Some can misuse these inventories to judge others and even use them to select team members

In this modern leadership age, the effective leader knows that one size does not fit all – that leaders need more than ever to be able to deal with diversity and difference in the workplace by flexing their own style and approach. Psychological instruments, if facilitated correctly, can be powerful tools that help develop self awareness and adaptability in leaders.

Richard Kelly PhD.
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