How to conduct leadership skills assessment

How to conduct leadership skills assessment

There are plenty of reasons why you may need to conduct a leadership skills assessment. You may be looking for a new manager for a recently formed team. Or, you may be in search of a team leader’s replacement, due to an unexpected withdrawal. You might even be wisely following a future-focused talent strategy that requires evaluating your human resources, in advance. 

In any case, regardless of your need — urgent or not — and the group of people you need to assess — new hires or employees, alike — you’ll need to conduct the leadership skills assessment in a proper way. You need to make sure it will finally lead to the desired outcomes. In what follows, we’ll try to give you as much relevant information as possible — including tools, tips and approaches — so that you’ll be well-prepared, to deal with the assessment efficiently. 

Tools you may use to conduct a leadership skills assessment

In a previous article we discussed, in detail, five different leadership assessment tools you may use to benefit your company. So, here’s an overview of it that may be helpful to our how-to discussion that follows: 

The DISC profiling test 

With it, you can, among other things, evaluate a person’s behavioral style, their needs and their communication style. Therefore, it may be used to shape up a profile that may be indicative of whether that person matches with the company’s preferred leadership style. Αnd, of course, if they are suitable for the particular leadership role. All in all, this type of test may be used in hiring, to improve communication gaps within teams — including their leaders. And, thus, it’s a valuable tool, when leadership skills assessment is critical.  

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment

This test helps unveil a person’s worldview, along with the decision-making process they’re prone to apply in the workplace. Thus, it helps get a better understanding of the leadership strengths of a candidate when hiring; and further develop leaders in your company.  

360 Degree Feedback

This method is useful when you need to evaluate people that already hold leadership roles. It helps shed light on leadership qualities and deficiencies, as they are mirrored and perceived by direct reports, colleagues, stakeholders and other members of your workplace environment. 

Life styles inventories (LSI 1 & LSI 2)

These tools combine both self-assessment and feedback. They have been designed to be used by managers and leaders, mainly for self-evaluation. With scores on parameters such as the ability to facilitate change, they provide quantifiable measurements of leadership strengths and weaknesses; and they support leadership development.

The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ)

It helps evaluate leadership style behavior; and is, again, suitable to use when you’re evaluating people who already hold leadership roles.

Apart from the aforementioned tools, when evaluating leadership skills, you may also use these following ones: 

  • 16PF, which is similar to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator — mentioned above — 

serves as a valuable tool in conducting a leadership skills assessment. Among other things, it provides insights, with respect to a candidate’s personality, their decision-making style and other parameters, critical for people about to take on leadership roles. 

  • Enneagram is a personality assessment tool that focuses on intentions, rather than behaviors. It may be useful when hiring managers, or as a self-assessment tool. The only cautionary advice is to use it in combination with other evaluation methods, as there’s no guarantee on the validity of the results it offers. And, thus, it does not accurately predict behaviors. 

Leadership competencies to look for, when hiring or promoting

Regardless of the specifics of each role, if you’re hiring or promoting a first-time leader, you’ll need to look for candidates or employees with high scores in the following competencies:

  • People management skills: ability to build trust, treat people with respect and effectively motivate team members.  
  • Performance under pressure: ability to remain poised under pressure, be solution-oriented and address difficult situations effectively. 
  • Analytical skills: ability to handle complicated situations and come up with solutions to challenging business problems 
  • Communication skills: actively listen to team members and stakeholders, and convey information (thoughts and ideas) effectively.  

In addition, they also need to score high in traits such as awareness (both self-awareness and situational awareness) and have strong decision-making skills.  

Things to have in mind before you conduct leadership skills assessment

Be clear with respect to the objective of your assessment

What is your goal? Why do you need to evaluate leadership skills? Is it for hiring, promotion, development and training or merely to assess and enhance your offering to a team? This will define the next steps of the process. 

Decide on whether you’ll additionally take in consideration “observable” behaviors or not

Depending on whether you’re evaluating people with or without leadership experience, you’ll need to use different methods to evaluate leadership skills. That is to say, regardless of the tool used to aid the process of leadership skills assessment,you may as well examine competencies, in terms of observable leadership behaviors; if any. And so, the people you’ll be assessing fall into one of these two groups:

  • They have not yet demonstrated leadership skills in their roles. That is to say, you’re hiring first-time managers or assigning leadership roles to team members; namely, promoting contributors to leadership roles. In that case, you’ll probably need to merely focus on the assessment tools, such as the ones mentioned earlier. 
  • They hold managerial or leadership roles. And, thus, evaluating previous leadership experience, in the form of observable behaviors, makes sense. This will help make wiser decisions, with respect to promotion, training and developing. Or even in case you need to set up a reward strategy. 

Thus, when evaluating leadership skills for hiring, it may be useful to ask a series of questions. That is, together with a profiling test, such as the ones aforementioned. The questions you’ll ask may refer to scenarios pertinent to past experiences, such as “Tell us about a time you were faced with a dilemma and were forced to make a hard decision”.  Alternatively, you may focus on hypothetical scenarios they’re highly likely to deal with in their new role. Scenarios, such as delegating tasks and redistributing duties to a team that is already dealing with tons of workload. 

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the assessment tool you’ll use to evaluate leadership potential and of whether you’ll employ interview questions or not, make sure you focus on the right skills and traits. That is to say, make sure you understand the way candidates or employees manage conflict situations. Find out how they would handle hard decisions, approach delegation and deal with underperformance. And, on top of that, focus on finding ways to see how they score in leadership traits. That is, traits such as empathy, transparency and trustworthiness. These traits are the ones to make a difference, at the end of the day.