Positioning for power in psychometrics

The post-Covid workplace looks quite different to how it did three years ago. Remote or hybrid working practices mean less in-person contact between teams and distance between line managers and employees. Internal and external pressures also inflict the need for increased flexibility to manage people and work.

All this needs to be managed effectively. So, what is most important in a leadership role? Or a better question might be, what is most important in a leadership role for your organisation?

A quick search for ‘top leadership skills’ can be somewhat bewildering: communication, vision, goal-setting, decisiveness, motivation, empathy, trust, integrity, agility, creativity, delegation, organisation, responsibility to others, accountability, relationship-building, inspiration, motivation… the list goes on. For one person to encompass all these skills is perhaps unrealistic.

The challenge in selecting the right leaders is in navigating the traits and behaviours an individual has, and whether or not they are a good match for the organisation. In a remote work setting, this may not be as easy to observe as it once was. So what are the other methods that can be used to ascertain whether or not someone is suitable when that person is either not known to the organisation, or is being assessed remotely for a role?

A selection panel needs to understand how a candidate competing for a position of power conducts themselves in a range of work settings, what drives them as a person, how they interact with others and how they make decisions. How that evidence is provided is critical to the process.

Psychometric tests and tools can offer a fair, cost- and time-efficient way of assessing suitability for leadership roles. Of the different measures available, situational judgement tests (SJTs) allow decision-making scenarios to be analysed in order to determine the most appropriate leadership style for that particular situation. SJTs have been in use since the mid-20th century and have been shown to predict managerial and leadership success. They also tend to show reduced levels of adverse impact due to such factors as gender, ethnicity and disability, as compared to cognitive ability tests.

The Leadership Judgement Indicator (LJI) was developed over 20 years ago and is a widely-used tool in organisations globally. Based on the work of Vroom and Yetton (1973), and further adapted over the years, the LJI assesses a leader’s judgement and preferred styles when dealing with a range of decision-making contexts. It gives a benchmark for how accurately the leader can discern the appropriate way of engaging with colleagues, as well as the leadership strategies they are likely to employ. So, unlike traditional ability tests, measures of judgement present complex scenarios and offer a number of alternative answers.

The LJI can also be used as a development tool for helping a person of influence to become more effective, and therefore more successful, in their leadership decision-making.

Leader Orientation Model
Leader Orientation Model

The LJI model is based on four different styles of leadership decision-making (see Leader Orientation model). Normed outcomes of the measure are presented in clear and straightforward graphics and text. These can be interpreted alongside other tests or tools, a debriefing interview, interview or observation. An example can be seen in this sample LJI-2 score profile.

Other tests used for leadership selection can help to build a picture of the candidate and add to the evidence on which to make a decision. Trait-based measures such as the NEO-PI-3 and TOP look at the ‘bright’ and ‘dark’ sides of personality, which can predict types of behavioural styles at work. Understanding how individual differences interact with power and leadership can help to identify which personality traits are prevalent in successful leaders, and this can be used for effective profiling in selection.

The Management Development Questionnaire – Revised (MDQ-R) is a personality measure which takes a different approach. It explores both management and leadership capabilities, as well as the emotional intelligence competencies that underpin effectiveness in each. Results can be combined to provide an overall profile of a test taker’s strengths and areas for development and can also be broken down from the perspective of management versus leadership.


By using tools such as the LJI-2NEO-PI-3TOP and MDQ-R for selection and development, organisations can use fair, unbiased and evidence-based measures to help to: 

Want to know and understand more about the use of psychometric tests in selection? Please access our new Introduction to Psychometrics guide which is free to download and share with your colleagues.

You may also be interested in reading:

New directions in leadership: what should be done to identify good leaders?

Assessing leadership in the post-Covid workplace

Why now is the time to understand management and leadership competencies

Leadership in a VUCA world

Leading in a Crisis - The Implications of Dark Triad Behaviours