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Leadership Impact

by Nik Kinley
30.Jun.2017 Talent Management/Organisational Development/Teams and Relationships

After decades of focusing exclusively on leadership capabilities and behaviours, there is a growing awareness that to get a full picture of leadership we also need to look at the impact that leaders have.

One way to do this is to look at their Signature Environments – the common features of the working environment and culture that each leader tends to create, which mark it as uniquely theirs. Last quarter, YSC presented ground-breaking new work in this area. Now, our continuing research is revealing just how important Signature Environments are, and just how little leaders, their bosses and business are able to accurately judge them.

The New Research

Our new research is based on a new Leadership Impact 360™ feedback tool. Traditional 360 tools look at how leaders behave - they ask about the degree to which leaders behave in certain ways. Our new 360 tool explores what the impact of these behaviours is on the people and processes around a leader. So rather than ask, “How often do they behave in this way…”, it asks, “What is the impact when the individual does this?” Three key initial findings stand out.

Finding #1: Businesses and bosses overrate the positive impact that leaders’ have

In a traditional 360, Direct Reports (DRs) rate participants highest, with Managers rating people lowest. In a Leadership Impact survey, it is the opposite: Managers and other senior stakeholders rate highest, with DRs rating lowest. So Managers and other superiors may be a good judge of how leaders behave, but they tend to overrate the degree to which this behaviour has a positive impact on the people and processes around the leader.

Finding #2: Businesses and bosses misjudge leaders’ impact

Managers and DRs tend to agree on how leaders behave: which behaviours they display the most and least of. We know this, because in a traditional 360, the ratings of Managers and DRs of leaders’ behaviour tend to be very similar. But when you ask about the impact of this behaviour on people and processes, there is next to no relationship between DRs’ ratings and those of Managers and other senior stakeholders: They disagree massively. So, again, firms may have a good understanding of how leaders behave, but they lack good insight into how this behaviour has an impact on leaders’ teams, business areas, and organisational culture.

Finding #3: Impact is a blind-spot for leaders, too

We have always had our suspicions on this – ever since we polled over 200 HR Leaders and found that only 2% thought that leaders have a strong understanding of the signature environment they create. Now we have the data from leaders themselves to show this. We measure Signature Environments by looking at three major areas of impact – Trust, Clarity and Momentum (with each consisting of four minor areas). Leaders tend to think they are strongest on creating Clarity, but the people around them tend to see this as the weakest area of their impact. Likewise, leaders seem to massively overrate how much Momentum they build. In fact, leaders tend to overrate how positive their impact is in all three major areas.

More specifically, leaders are most likely to overestimate how much they:

  • Encourage challenge: “This person…makes me feel able to question and challenge their thinking”.
  • Motivate People: “This person helps me feel motivated in what I am doing and trying to achieve”.
  • Encourage initiative: “This person encourages us to take the initiative”.
  • Foster purpose: “This person helps me understand how I fit into the business’ direction & strategy”.
  • Are open: “I feel I know where I stand with this person”.

Our research and work with organisations across the globe on Signature Environments continues to grow. They are important because they enable us to help organisations make more informed and assured selection decisions, and help leaders to better develop themselves and their careers.

For more information on assessing and developing Signature Environments, and the new Leaders Impact 360™ tool, please contact us at info@ysc.com

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