Leadership Flows Down HillWe’re currently working with an organization embarking on an extensive leadership and culture development process. It’s starting in a series of workshops and planning retreats with the CEO and his team of direct reports along with their direct reports. The first part of the process is our strengths-based 360 assessment.

The CEO is actively engaged in his own development and leading by example. In preparing for the work over the past months I felt he was an extremely strong leader and expected his 360 assessment would show that. It certainly has. Rated by over 15 of his direct reports, boss, peers, and others he is what we define as an extraordinary leader; in the top 10 percent of leaders in our database of over 75,000 global leaders. His involvement and personal development example bodes extremely well for the long term success of this development initiative.

Unfortunately, this is not all that common. Too often senior leaders are “too busy” to participate in leadership development exercises. Giving lots of lip service to the importance of leadership and organization development they approve budgets to develop (or “fix”) other leaders.

This is a major mistake. As Zenger Folkman’s research from 360 assessment data on 11,925 leaders at all levels show, senior leaders set the ceiling for leadership skills. Middle or lower level leaders don’t raise their leadership skills above their leaders.
leadership flows down hill
As leadership skills flow down the organization, engagement levels also reflect these trends. With a mini-engagement survey embedded in each 360 we clearly see that a leader’s effectiveness impacts not only their direct reports’ engagement but also engagement of the next level.

You can read an overview of this research in Joe Folkman’s Forbes article, “Does Your Boss Need Some Leadership Development?” Joe and Jack Zenger expanded on this research in their webinar World Class Executive Development – 4 Elements That Will Make Leadership Development More Successful!

How high is the pinnacle of your organization’s hill from which leadership skills flow? Are top leaders setting a high and rising beginning point?