I was working with a coaching client recently, “unpacking” the results of his Leadership Circle Profile (360˚ feedback assessment). While his profile was very positive–he is doing well as a leader–I was struck that on several less desirable factors (e.g. Passive, Critical, Arrogance) he scored himself high while his employees saw him as low, not demonstrating these factors very often.
What does it mean when we as leaders see ourselves one way and our staff another? And when this happens, who is right?
There are two probable causes for such data emerging:
- The leader does have the tendency but is able to mask or repress it in his (her) behavior with others.
- The leader does not have this tendency but, for whatever reason, thinks that he does.
It is very difficult to mask your true self as a leader over time. Despite that famous line attributed to Abraham Lincoln, I don’t believe a manager in an organization can “fool some of the people all the time.” We are much more transparent than we think. People around us “get” the essence of our style and our intentions. A manager who tries to fake caring, or assertiveness, or openness to feedback will soon be seen as lacking in integrity. Absent integrity, essentially it’s all over for him being effective as a leader.
That leaves us with cause #2. At first glance at his results, my client could not reconcile the wide gap in scores between his self-assessment and his people’s. As he began exploring more deeply into the items in question, however, he began to see that perhaps he had assessed himself inaccurately.
For example, he learned that arrogance reflects a superior, I’m-better-than-you, attitude and tone. It includes striving for all the credit and attention. It means that to remain “big, you must keep others “small.” Upon reflection, he felt that was not truly him. I agreed, sharing that, like his staff, I did not experience him as arrogant. I invited him to consider the possibility that what he scored as arrogance was, in fact, more about having strong values and beliefs and confidently expressing them at work. This was new for him and he agreed to give it more thought.
I had a similar experience in the process of becoming certified to work with the Leadership Circle Profile. I scored myself close to zero on the important element, Caring Connection. My 360˚ respondents had me quite strong in this area. “What’s going on here,” I asked myself. Do I really give a darn about those around me? About my clients? Others obviously “feel the love.” This forced me to realize that I, in fact, do care more than I let myself believe. Recognizing and owning this part of my personality has made me a better workshop leader and executive coach.
If we are to be effective leaders we need to understand ourselves better. This is where a 360˚ and coaching can really make a difference. And beyond self-awareness, we need to start seeing the sides of ourselves that we deny or don’t see. We need to acknowledge the more reactive habits of thought that hold us back, so we can reduce their influence. And we need to embrace the outcome creating elements we possess, so that we can continue to build upon them and become better and better for the people we serve.
© 2012, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.