It’s very easy to see bad or bullying leadership in others. It’s much tougher to recognize our leadership shortfalls. As American social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership, Jonathan Haidt, says “we judge others by their behavior, but we think we have special information about ourselves–we know what we are ‘really like’ inside, so we can easily find ways to explain away our selfish acts and cling to the illusion that we are better than others.”
Most leaders want to walk their talk. Rarely will a leader declare a value or behavioral goal and then deliberately contradict that with his or her actions. Hypocrisy is often done innocently. Many leaders have no idea that their actions are seen to be out of step with their words. And as their personal credibility gulf widens, their discordant actions raise the “snicker factor.”
Less effective leaders often have deadly blind spots that cause them to become sincere hypocrites. They blithely become “that boss.” What kind of boss are you? How do you know?
One of the features in working with Zenger Folkman’s 360 assessment process, The Extraordinary Leader, allows participants to compare their leadership self-assessment with everyone else’s rating of their effectiveness. Most times, less effective leaders who are “that boss” rate themselves much higher than everyone else does. They’re innocently ignorant of their ineffectiveness.
That’s why 360 assessments have become so widely used. But as Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman point out in their recent Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes a 360-Degree Review Successful,” there’s a vast difference in how 360 assessments are being used. Based on their decades of experience and research with over 100,000 360 assessments, they write, “for it to be worthwhile, the process has to be implemented in a way that engages leaders so they are compelled and motivated to become better at their job.”
Your leadership self-assessment may cause you to feel you’re a good boss. But as the Greek sage and philosopher, Epictetus observed, “what concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.” An effective 360 assessment is the only way to learn how others see you. Those perceptions are the reality of what kind of boss you really are.
In Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes,
“… people around us may tend to collude with our denial. Among the more difficult kinds of information to get in organizational life is honest, constructive feedback about how we are doing, especially about our lapses. Coworkers, subordinates, and bosses have an easier time complaining to each other out of earshot of a person than having an honest and open talk with that person about what’s wrong. There is a Faustian bargain in this collusion to act as though everything is fine when in fact it is not, for we buy the illusion of harmony and effectiveness at the cost of the truth that could open the way to genuine improvement.”
An old Yiddish saying teaches, “If one or two people tell you that you’re an ass, you can ignore them. But if three or four people tell you you’re an ass, you might think about putting on a saddle.”