Organizational Cultural Orientation
The first factor to consider is the organizational cultural orientation, particularly as it relates to the perceived value of leadership development efforts. By cultural orientation we are referring to a number of facets. One of these is the belief structure of senior leadership (which is one of the most powerful ways that a culture is created and therefore a reflection of what is valued in that organization). Individual learners are unquestionably to want to engage in leadership development activities if their senior leadership does not support their efforts through funding for personality assessment measures, time away from work for their own development, or simply lacks an expressed interest in development. Sponsorship for development from the top of the organization is critical in ensuring a learning and supportive culture, as is the case with most OD and culture change interventions. Similarly, the amount to which senior leaders model behaviors that support their own personal continued development will impact the motivation levels of lower-level leaders to embrace leadership development themselves.
Supporting Personality Assessment Tools and Processes
The second factor, which is related to the leadership development and culture / environment they create, is the availability and number of supporting tools and processes for development. While there are many types of personality assessment tools and learning and development programs, the amount to which the organization provides access to these (either internally through formal programs or externally through various vendor relationships) can make a significant difference in how much development an individual learner can engage in successfully. For example, if an organization only offers two 40 – person attendee leadership programs in a given year, even the most ambitious leader will have difficulty advancing their case for attendance if the target population for that program is all 400 middle managers. It could take as long as five years before an individual will be able to attend. In a situation such as this, leadership self-directed development behavior will require other means. As noted above, organizations vary significantly in how much emphasis they place on leadership development, and as a result, the philosophical stance that they take regarding providing access to tools and resources. In my experience there is a continuum here between companies that emphasize individual accountability for development (for example, we will provide the personality assessment and other tools but you must be the initiator and drive your own development), and those that are quite prescriptive in nature (for example, you must progress through these programs, experiences and personality evaluations before being allowed to move to a new role or level in the hierarchy).
It can be more difficult for individuals to engage in developmental experiences if the only ones offered are through formal prescriptive channels. Regardless of where an organization is on the continuum, the personality assessment tools and resources available to a leader clearly have an impact on his or her ability to develop. This is why companies selected for inclusion in the ‘;Top companies for leaders’; lists (eg, Fortune, 2007) typically have a multi-platform approach to development (for example, classroom, distance learning, web- based, coaching and mentoring programs) .
The final and sometimes most important moderating variable in personality assessment and leadership development are the individual characteristics of the leader in question. These characteristics essentially break down into three separate areas:
- the personality disposition and motivation to develop;
- the level of learning ability and cognitive capacity to develop;
- the degree of career aspirations to develop and advance.
For self development to occur in a leadership development context the individual needs to be moderate to high on all three of these areas. In short, the psychological make-up of the individual will directly impact on his or her ability to learn from personality assessment tools, motivation to seek assessment and development efforts, and level of personal engagement in the process. This can affect all phases of assessment-development.