In today’s economy, the most important thing for any professional to focus on is increasing productivity to make the most of what you have

In today’s economy, the most important thing for any professional to focus on is increasing productivity to make the most of what you have.  Sounds easy enough, but in today’s world, professionals have to be ready to walk the walk, when they have already talked the talk.  How do we measure something that is always changing?

The first step in defining leadership is to define the characteristics of an effective leader.  Effective leaders consistently exhibit certain characteristics.  By understanding what these characteristics are, we can model these same behaviors.  Fortunately, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s book The Leadership Challenge has studied over a million cases of effective leaders.  As a result of their research, we now know that the top characteristics of an effective leader are honesty, competency, being forward-focused and inspiring. 

Now that we have something to measure, how do we go about measuring it?  The most popular method is through the use of inventories or surveys that ask others to rate a person in a variety of categories.  The subject does a self evaluation on how they are doing and those that work with them (supervisors, coworkers, customers or anyone else that has contact with the subject).  After all the data is compiled, we can then take a tangible look at what was once a subjective area.

One of the best examples of this type of inventory is the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) by Kouzes and Posner.  After over 25 years of research, they have composed a relatively easy way to compile an enormous amount of data in an easy to understand graph.  Once complete, the baseline for leadership skills has been set.  From that point on, it is a matter of working to improve the areas that scored the lowest on the inventory.  In order to track progress, or in some cases lack of progress, one can re-administer the LPI to get an “update” on how their leadership skills are doing.  For a video demo of the LPI go to http://www.lpionline.com/demo/demo.html.

Once armed with this powerful information, it is imperative that the results are interpreted and communicated very carefully.  The Lake Wobegon Effect (http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Lake_Wobegon_effect ) tells us that the human tendency is to overestimate one’s achievements and abilities in relation to others.  In our case, it is normal and expected for most people to expect their results to be higher than they really are.  It is highly recommended that you choose someone that is a certified facilitator to work people through this section.  Without trained facilitation, a person may end up dismissing years of proven research due to a blow to their ego.  With proper guidance, the growth of any one individual can be almost limitless.  After all, who has met someone that is the best at everything?

By following these guidelines, one can not only measure the leadership skills of an individual, but is armed with a solid development plan based on years of research.  The results include increased leadership skills in all levels, an increase in job satisfaction, employee retention and host of others.  What is stopping you from measuring your leadership skills today?

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