Examining leading topics: leadership assessment 2024.0

Last month, Hogrefe hosted a webinar focusing on topical challenges and opportunities around leaders and leadership assessment. Our guest speakers, Tameron Chappell, Leadership Development and Assessment Consultant, and Ben Vernazza, Principal Consultant and Head of Assessment at Edgecumbe Consulting, joined Hogrefe’s Liz Hey to discuss integrating AI into our work as a way of understanding leadership, how personality impacts leadership styles, and why we should change our expectations of ‘complete leaders’. 

Tameron and Ben presented on two very different but equally significant topics critical to leadership today. Tapping into some of the current challenges faced by practitioners, Tameron looked at how AI will be integrated into the workplace and how leaders can optimise and manage this, and Ben discussed the ‘incomplete’ leader – and why it's unrealistic for any individual to be a ‘complete’ leader.

Here we share just a brief outline of the content from last month’s session – but we recommend you listen to the webinar in full for all the details (and the entertainment!) Watch the recording here

The rise of the machines: How can I lead my team when some of them are AI?

The following content was created by Tameron Chappell and has been summarised.

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) may feel relatively new to us now, but it was first coined in the 1950s when scientists were exploring the idea of machine learning. It’s a type of technology that has existed for decades, but only recently has it been made more accessible to the wider public. 

It’s a controversial term that some find intimidating and/or concerning, yet there’s a widely held view that everyone should be embracing it. And, as it turns out, the subject of AI is a great way of analysing leadership skills by looking at how we adopt change. 

As humans we like to think we are rational decision makers, so it’s understandable that we would have concerns when it comes to adopting new technology. During the course of the webinar we asked the audience what they are most concerned about, and among the issues mentioned were:

  • Data security breaches
  • Artificial intelligence surpassing human intelligence
  • Fraud/identity theft/deep fakes
  • Spreading misinformation
  • Slow degradation of connection between humans 

Despite these very understandable fears, AI is also already being used to do a lot of good in the world; for instance, in medicine and healthcare where AI has been used successfully in diagnosis, drug discovery and treatment plans; in improving general communication (including method, language, and scope); and reducing human error.

Like personality, there is a ‘bright side’ and a ‘dark side’ to AI, but perhaps it’s really about how we adapt to change and uncertainty. It is possible to assess leadership by looking at what personality factors or domains might lead to (or prevent) the integration of AI in the workplace.

The research

Numerous studies have researched the significance of a personality-based approach to AI adoption. In 2021, Esterwood et al looked at 26 different studies across more than a thousand individuals specifically looking at how personality might predict adoption of AI. Using the ‘Big Five’ domains of personality seen in measures like the NEO Personality Inventory – 3rd Edition UK (NEO-PI-3 UK) (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism) as a reference, the results showed that people who score highly for openness are more likely to adopt AI, and more likely to be extroverted, while conscientiousness was not a significant factor in prediction (however, it’s worth pointing out that this was a 2021 study and a lot has changed in the AI world since then!). A separate study by Stein et al in 2024 looked specifically at adoption and tolerance for AI and found that neuroticism was a key factor - particularly if a person has a conspiracy mindset.

In practice

Looking at if and how leaders adopt AI may be essentially about understanding how knowing your personality is going to help you accept and integrate new technology, new processes, and new ways of ‘doing’ – and opens opportunities for discussions about why someone might feel reluctant to adopt new things.

While personality is a good place to start, it’s only one aspect of this analysis. We must also take into consideration their knowledge and experience, as well as their professional, cultural and life background. 

Are you excited by AI and what it will bring in future? Or does it still feel like the apocalypse is looming? Well, perhaps that depends in part on your personality. 

How incomplete leaders can create complete leadership

The following content was created by Ben Vernazza and has been summarised.

Some might say there's never been a more challenging time to be a leader. We've had to face once-in-a-generation ordeals like the Covid-19 pandemic; once-in-a-career challenges like Brexit – all while having to change our approaches to deal with issues such as snowballing resignations and adapting to widespread digital upheavals like we are witnessing with the rise of AI.

All of this places huge demands upon leaders, and in a world where no leader is a ‘complete’ leader, it’s critical to know that they have the ability to cope with challenges and have the resources at hand to support employees through turbulent times.

Tackling the great resignation

DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2023, one of the most expansive leadership research projects in the world, is the result of a survey that went out to over 13,000 leaders from 1500 different organisations spread globally. Some of the findings listed below give us a good gauge of what's really going on in the leadership landscape today:  

  • 40% of leaders surveyed report that their own company has high quality leaders. 
  • 12% of companies have confidence in their leadership bench strength.
  • 72% of leaders are experiencing burnout. 
  • 46% of respondents trust their own direct manager (32% when at more senior levels).

These figures leave a lot to be desired and have CEOs concerned, particularly about retaining talent. If people aren't feeling engaged or supported by their manager there’ll be a hit on performance and employees will leave. Staff need to feel supported, and if the leader establishes the right conditions to create a conducive working environment that will bring out people's best.

Psychological safety is key to achieving this. Establishing psychological safety means that employees should feel at ease to communicate, whether they are sharing ideas, asking questions, voicing concerns, or admitting to mistakes. It fosters a work environment where individuals feel free to be themselves and cultivates a culture of trust and respect among colleagues.

Leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum

Professor David Pendleton, founder of leading business psychology consulting service Edgecumbe, understood that leadership is influenced by context; so rather than describing how leaders need to behave he focused on the underpinning tasks that all leaders must take care of. After conducting an extensive literature review he came up with the Primary Colours Leadership Model. This model was developed with four aims in mind. First, to encapsulate a great deal of the evidence linking leadership to performance. Second, to describe the tasks of leadership in a simple and coherent model. Third, to make the model memorable and therefore make it possible to guide leaders’ behaviour day to day. Fourth, to create a frame of reference to which other leadership models might be compared so that the links, similarities and differences can be identified.

Edgecumbe’s Primary Colours® Model of Leadership

The Primary Colours Model is broken down into three domains in which leaders must operate: the strategic, the operational and the interpersonal. Each has its own focus, though there are interrelationships between them:

  • The strategic domain is the future and the direction the organisation needs to take on the journey to its preferred future state.
  • The operational domain is the present and the actions required to produce the results on which the organisation depends.
  • The interpersonal domain is the organisation’s stakeholders, how they are best motivated, sustained and involved on the journey.

By mapping the three domains in which leaders work, it provides a simple, memorable and actionable description of what leaders need to do.

Leadership is a team game

Leaders can create the conditions for success by establishing psychological meaning and safety, understanding their own strengths and weaknesses, and finding balance. And personality will influence how easily we can take on new challenges and adapt to change while keeping the focus on employee wellbeing. 

While the best leaders are not well-rounded, best teams are, and effective leaders surround themselves with the right people that enable them to build upon each person's strengths. The way that we create complete leadership is by helping in inherently incomplete leaders to understand how to draw upon their colleagues to support them.

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