Leadership Assessment Tools: What do they actually measure?

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  3. Common leadership assessment tools and what they actually measure

If you’re to fully understand your current leadership skills profile, your areas of strength, and those areas that need development, then conducting a reliable leadership assessment is essential.

Leadership assessment tools help you to do this. They provide valuable insights and information that can inform decision-making, shape future training and development and help people achieve higher levels of professional performance.

Understanding leadership assessment tools

Leadership assessment tools can provide an effective and adaptable means by which to gauge particular skills, abilities and competencies. Different tools have different aims in mind and have been developed to assess various aspects of an individual’s personality, behaviour, cognitive approach and leadership skillset.

To provide an objective and reliable assessment different methods will be used. In many cases, there will be an assessment with data presented in a particular way. While many leadership assessment tools will be self-reported, others will be informed by the opinions of those who work with the individual. Some may combine both.

In each case, the leadership assessment tool will be optimised to ensure that the results it produces provide an accurate signpost that helps deepen understanding and leads to greater workplace effectiveness.


How do you choose the right leadership assessment tool?


Choosing the right leadership assessment tools really comes down to what you are trying to assess and what you hope to then do with the results.

Two questions it’s worth bearing in mind when it comes to choosing the most appropriate leadership assessment tools are:

  • What are you hoping to uncover?
  • What do you want to use the data for?

These will help shape your decision.


Key considerations when choosing leadership assessment tools


Work out why you are doing the assessment in the first place. This should be clear from the beginning and will ensure that your choice of leadership assessment tool will provide the insights you need.

What’s important is that you understand what you’re looking to do with the assessment and match up the assessment to that purpose. For example, if you’re trying to increase a leader’s self-awareness as to how their behaviour impacts others, you need to use an assessment that shows how their behaviour is perceived by people they encounter.

If you’re looking to understand something about their fundamental make-up and disposition, then you’ll need to choose a personality-based leadership assessment tool. If you’re considering how the individuals work within a team and how they are perceived, then you will need a leadership assessment tool that draws on insights from other team members.

Determine how important accuracy and validity are to you

If you want to make hiring/firing decisions about individuals purely based on the results of the assessments that you run (for example, which candidates to exclude from a recruitment process) it’s going to be super important that you do your research into the validity of the assessment. Choosing the wrong leadership assessment tool could result in valuable talent being lost based on inaccurate data.

For that reason, you need to ensure that the leadership assessment tool you’re using is statistically valid in that it is:

  • Reliable
  • Objective
  • Benchmarked
  • Blind to issues such as gender, race and socioeconomic background

On the other hand, if it's about understanding individuals and differences, that is more for informational and educational purposes, you might not be as concerned with scientific validity.

Leadership assessment tools
Choosing the right leadership assessment is critical to gathering the right data!

Evaluate practicality and user experience

As well as ensuring you select correctly from the range of leadership assessment tools, there is also a range of practical considerations you’ll need to bear in mind:

  • Cost – how much it costs you to develop and administer the assessment
  • Scalability – how quickly and efficiently you can administer the assessment to large numbers of candidates
  • User experience – how people feel when they complete the assessment and whether or not it produces “assessment fatigue” (yes, that’s a real thing) 

With so many assessments available on the market, you may want to combine multiple assessments from different providers. But remember – you’ve got to consider how each user is going to feel when completing those assessments.

Poorly conceived or inappropriate leadership assessment tools may be off-putting for employees, with many choosing not to answer or to try and give the answers that they believe the employer is looking for. The best leadership assessment tools are designed to elicit accurate and honest data from those being assessed.

Leadership assessments
If employees don't want to complete leadership assessments, or use the results, the whole exercise will be wasted.

Leadership assessments: The Big Five Factors

Personality Assessment

This type of assessment is looking at the aspects of personality that drive an individual’s behaviour. The only option for assessing personality is through self-reporting. However, the validity will come from how the questions are constructed and how easy it is to ‘fake’ the assessment.

For a good breakdown on what factors are considered under ‘personality’, have a look at The Big Five Factors

Behavioural Style Assessment

These types of assessments measure patterns of observable behaviour. The frameworks that behaviour is measured against will differ depending on the assessment and theory behind it.

Assessments that assess how an individual’s behaviour is perceived by others (360 style assessments) are going to be more useful for leadership than those that assess an individual’s self-perception of their behaviour (self-reported assessments). But self-reported assessments do have their place!

Leadership Skills Assessment

A leadership skills assessment identifies skill proficiency, or gap. In a leadership sense, this helps you understand whether or not individuals are proficient in a leadership skill set i.e. understand how to carry out all of the tasks involved in a leadership role.

Cognitive Ability Assessment

These types of assessments measure various mental abilities, such as verbal and numerical ability, reasoning and reading comprehension. Some cognitive ability assessments measure distinct abilities (e.g., verbal, numerical), while others measure a combination of different abilities to provide a measure of general mental ability.

Commonly used leadership assessment tools

Leadership Success Knowledge and Skills Assessment
Leadership Success
Classification Skills
Type Scenario based testing
What is assessed

Commonly used to assess emerging leaders, frontline managers and some middle managers, this assessment tests knowledge and skills accross 40 different common management scenarios. These represent the 40 universal, fundamental leadership skills.

Participants are asked to select both the best and worst way to handle a given scenario and their results are benchmarked against others who have previously taken the assessment to identify skills gaps.

Cost involves

Assessment OR Assessment + Debrief

Included in development programs

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®)
Myers Briggs
Classification Behavioural style
Type Self reported
What is assessed

Behavioural style or tendencies within the Myers-Briggs Framework (based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types):

  • How you get energy (Extraversion v Introversion)
  • How you take in information (Sensing or Inituition)
  • How you make decisions (Thinking or Feeling)
  • How you deal with the world (Judging or Perceiving).
Cost involves

Assessment only

DISC Profile
Classification Behavioural style
Type Self reported
What is assessed

Behavioural style or tendencies within the DISC Framework:

  • Are you direct (assertive) or indirect (more reserved)
  • Are you open with your emotions or more guarded
  • Are you fast paced in your decision making, or need more time to consider your options?
  • Are you task-focused or people-focused?
Cost involves

Assessment only

Classification Behavioural style
Type Self reported
What is assessed

Behavioural style or tendencies within the “Strengths” matrix:

  • Executing
  • Influencing
  • Relationship Building
  • Strategic Thinking

The idea is that you then focus on developing those areas in which you have achieved high scores i.e. your strengths.

Cost involves

Assessment only

Life Styles Inventory | Management/Impact | Leadership/Impact
Human Synergistics
Classification Behavioural style
Type Self reported and observation by others
What is assessed

Behavioural style or tendencies within the relevant competency framework for the Human Synergistics tool:

  • Lifestyles (Individuals)
  • Management
  • Leadership
Cost involves

Assessment + LSI certification is required

Leadership Circle Profile
The Leadership Circle
Classification Behavioural style
Type Self reported and observation by others
What is assessed

Behavioural style or tendencies within the Leadership Circle Competency Framework. These include:

  • Creative leadership competencies that contribute to a leader’s effectiveness
  • Reactive leadership styles that limit effectiveness, authentic expression and empowering leadership
  • Internal assumptions about ones-self
Cost involves

Assessment + the report must be debriefed through a Leadership Circle coach

The Birkman Signature
Classification Behavioural style
Type Self reported
What is assessed

Behavioural style or tendencies within the Nine Birkman Behaviour Components:

Social Energy, Physical Energy, Emotional Energy, Self-Consciousness, Assertiveness, Insistence, Incentives, Restlessness, Thought

Cost involves

Assessment + Birkman certification is required

Leadership Impact 360
Classification Behavioural style
Type Self reported and observation by others
What is assessed

Behavioural style or tendencies across the 3P Leadership Impact Model:

Professional, People, Pioneering.

Cost involves

Assessment + Saville certification is required

Hogan Personality Inventory | Hogan Development Survey | Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory
Classification Personality
Type Self reported and observation by others
What is assessed

Hogan provides a library of complementary personality assessments with the key goal of facilitating strategic self awareness in leaders so that they understand how to manage their own behaviour to increase their workplace success

Cost involves

Assessment + Hogan certification is required

Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)
Classification Personality
Type Self reported
What is assessed

SHL’s OPQ assessment assesses 32 personality characteristics.

Note: SHL has a vast library of assessments covering personality, skills, behavioural styles and cognitive ability. We have just covered the most well-known assessment within the leadership development industry

Cost involves

While SHL certification is available, you can also self service and purchase the assessments online

Korn Ferry 360 surveys viaEdge
Korn Ferry

Cognitive Ability, Learning agility,

Personality and Skills

Type Blended assessments
What is assessed

Korn Ferry certification is required

Cost involves

Certification + assessment

Learn more

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