Identifying Blind Spots in Leadership Development

Identifying Blind Spots in Leadership Development

Timothy W. Turner, Richard J. Conroy
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5345-9.ch025
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A plethora of market available 360-degree assessment tools add value to the work of organizational leadership and management professionals. This chapter examines 360-degree assessments in terms of leadership development, training, and coaching. Multi-rater assessment use is reviewed in the context of emotional intelligence competencies. Leadership development is enhanced when benchmarks are established for leaders in the area of emotional intelligence. Organizations can identify keys to leader development by recognizing specific competencies in “star performers” (high performers). Self-report assessment instruments are generally useful in identifying key leadership competencies, but are limited by an individual's self-awareness. 360-degree multi-rater assessments enhance and support the recognition of these specific competencies but more so serve to identify blind spots or gaps in competency areas. Any divergence is often between a leader's self-reporting and observations gleaned from a 360-degree perspective by peers, subordinates, managers, family members, friends, and others.
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Foundational Leadership Theories: Background

Interest in and fascination with leadership and all that it entails is not a new development. Social scientists, academicians, and intellectuals have been intrigued by the study of leadership since the times of Plato, Freud, Einstein, Gandhi, Churchill, Roosevelt, Kennedy, King, and others (Burns, 1978). The study of leadership is often viewed as a broad and generic discipline with applicability across multiple fields, including academia, politics, military, and business. This popularity seems to have transcended more than academia and the corporate world and has become of general interest socially as well. Despite its popularity, the leadership field can also be complex to understand. Where does one begin focused and worthwhile research in the leadership arena? Are people simply born with natural leadership traits? If not, can leadership traits, competencies, and skills be learned through training and education? Because leadership means different things to different people, it is understandable that myriad definitions have been coined following the evolution of leadership studies over a long period of time. In an early 1970’s work, Stogdill (1974) posited that a review of leadership literature indicated there are as many definitions for the term, as there are people who have attempted to define it.

In its evolution, the leadership field has also developed its own nomenclature with various sub-fields, styles, terms, and traits. Burns (1978) suggested society in general has both a “desire and hunger for leaders who are both compelling and creative,” (p.1). As a part of this hunger, leadership definitions have primarily focused on the characteristics and dynamics that make one person perceived as a more effective leader than someone else. Burns’ book Leadership remains the classic benchmark text that introduced transformational leadership, which takes place when one or more persons “engage” with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of “motivation and morality.” (p.19). This concept of transformation is contrasted to transactional leadership, a more traditional view holding that followers are led by managers who supervise by offering rewards and punishments in order to accomplish group goals (Northouse, 2013, Wren, 2006).

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