Assessing & Reporting ‘Paradoxical’ Leadership Competencies beyond Traditional One-dimensional Continuums/Scales

Paper / Leadership

Assessing & Reporting ‘Paradoxical’ Leadership Competencies beyond Traditional One-dimensional Continuums/Scales
Raman Kumar , Manager, India

The paper presents an enhanced frame of reference to assess 'paradoxical' leadership competencies. The paper also suggests a method of reporting leadership assessments using the framework.

Assessing & Reporting ‘Paradoxical’ Leadership Competencies beyond Traditional One-dimensional Continuums/Scales
- Raman Kumar, Manager H&S KMC
(The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of H&S)
"He can step on your shoes, but he doesn't mess up your shine.”
It is hard to miss the underlying message in the quote above: that ‘balanced’ or ‘optimized’ skills and personal attributes are valued, admired and desired in leaders. A key leadership competency is to be able to deal with paradoxes without being construed as polar. For example, a leader may need to be tough and yet also empathetic or act in accordance with a certain situation (‘situational leadership’) while still maintaining consistency.
Various assessment methodologies exist that aim to evaluate leaders against an agreed set of competencies, values and related behavior. Most are based on carefully designed questionnaires where respondents typically opine over a continuum of ‘qualifiers or response options’ presented in the form of a linear scale. These continuums measure either in terms of ‘how well tasks are performed / behaviors displayed’ (Ability Continuum) or in terms of ‘how often or how seldom’ (Prevalence Continuum) certain competency linked behaviors are observed for an executive.
Ability Continuum – Respondents use this continuum to assess executive behaviors against ‘qualifiers or response options’ such as:
• “substantially below target, below target, on target, above target, substantially above target” or
• “not developed, under-developed, effective, very strong, outstanding” or
• “ineffective, adequate, effective, very effective, outstanding”
A number of semantic variations of these qualifiers have been attempted to hone in on the essence of a response to a behavioral statement. However, most variations of the ability continuum seem to imply that higher the ‘amount’ of a certain skill, value or competency-related behavior observed/displayed; the better it is for the executive. This may not be accurate as “heightened use” or “overuse” or “exaggerated use” of strength can actually become a weakness and a cause of stress for others. For example, a response of ‘under-developed’ or ‘below target’ or ‘ineffective’ on a behavior of ‘expresses his/her stand on issues’ only conveys a development need but nothing on what essentially is/are the factor(s) that could have lead to this response and hence the underlying reason for the ‘ineffectiveness’.
Prevalence Continuum - On the other hand, prevalence continuum describes the frequency at which certain behaviors are or are not observed. Qualifiers or response options such as:
• “seldom, sometimes, reasonably or generally, quite often, mostly”
are provided against which respondents rate value or competency-related behaviors. However, it is not clear if a response of ‘mostly’ against a behavior of ‘expresses his/her stand on issues’ is good or bad or in the range of acceptable force. The behavior is related to ‘assertiveness’ and by merely knowing that the behavior is displayed ‘mostly’ one cannot understand whether this is a desirable frequency or not.
It is observed that such one-dimensional continuums alone may not be sufficient to assess as well as convey useful context to the many multi-dimensional behavioral aspects of leaders, particularly those related to paradoxical attributes. This is significant in the backdrop of today’s global organizations having culturally ever more diverse employees and work situations.
As a result, this paper intends to explore and present a two-dimensional frame of reference to capture more meaning and color to leadership assessment responses (to carefully designed assessment questionnaires) when compared with the responses captured through a predominant use of one-dimensional continuums, such as the ability and prevalence continuums, in assessment questionnaires. More specifically, this paper presents that it would be useful to calibrate certain paradoxical value, skill or competency-related behaviors against a Calibration Continuum in conjunction and reference to other continuums such as the ability and/or prevalence continuum(s).
The calibration continuum is designed with qualifiers such as ‘diminished use/display or underuse or underdone’ at one end of the spectrum and ‘exaggerated use/display or overuse or overdone’ at the other end, as shown below:
In the foregoing description an attempt is made to present and explain, using examples, how the calibration continuum can be used with the ability or prevalence continuums or any other continuum/scale to develop a more robust and contextual two-dimensional frame of reference for paradoxical competency, skill and/or value assessments. read more pls contact me for a pdf version of full paper

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