What Makes a Leader? - The Global Leadership Life Inventory

Leaders are the ones who show the way to success, and it’s clear that certain qualities aid their effectiveness. The key lies in ascertaining what these are. Professor Manfred Kets de Vries, Pierre Vrignaud, and Elizabeth Florent-Treacy explain how they obtained a 360-degree feedback instrument that provides vital feedback on twelve “robust dimensions” salient for effective leadership.

by Manfred Kets de Vries, Elizabeth Florent-Treacy,Pierre Vrignaud
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

When organizations go down the drain, it is generally because of the rot that started at the top,” says Professor Kets de Vries. He explains that leaders who have the ability to transform the work place into a “healthy and positive place” are also the ones who can write corporate success stories.

It’s no wonder then that a clarified approach to assessing qualities of leadership in the corporate environment has a significant positive impact. Working towards this purpose, Manfred Kets de Vries, The Raoul de Vitry d’Avaucourt Chaired Professor of Human Resource Management and Clinical Professor of Management and Leadership at INSEAD, Elizabeth Florent-Treacy, INSEAD Research Affiliate, and Pierre Vrignaud, Doctor in Psychology and Researcher at I’INETOP/CNAM, developed the Global Leadership Life Inventory (GlobeInvent).

The starting point was Manfred Kets de Vries’ decades of experience in applying the psychodynamics of leadership in executive seminars. Under his guidance, the three began by looking at the existing research on leadership, a vast range of topics and hypotheses, from the personality/trait theory to the process theory. But the authors claimed the essential angle that seemed to be missing is the clinical orientation to leadership. They say in order to understand the qualities of a great leader; it is imperative to comprehend the psychodynamic processes that are part and parcel of the leadership puzzle. There is need to delve beneath the surface of each person and discover his or her “inner theatre,” Rather than excluding the emotional element, this orientation considers the “triangle of mental life” that is made up of emotion, cognition, and behavior.

The first stage of the process in developing the GlobeInvent included a literature review and a qualitative methodology. This led to the introduction of twelve “dimensions” essential for exemplary leadership, which include envisioning, empowering, energizing, designing and controlling, rewarding and feedback, team-building, outside orientation, global mindset, tenacity, emotional intelligence, life balance and resilience to stress This research was summarized in an article entitled “Global Leadership from A-Z” (Organizational Dynamics, Spring 2002).

The next stage was a quantitative research project, which aimed to make these dimensions operational for the purpose of leadership development. Then they analyzed the data according to several criteria, including self or observer position, gender, nationality, management experience and age.

They designed this 360-degree feedback instrument in order to negate the bias of desirability that can arise in self-reports. This allowed them to capitalize on multiple perspectives, confirm assumptions about strength and spot areas that need improvement or change. The GlobeInvent asks the test-takers to include observations made by direct reports, peers, internal or external customers, and superiors in the feedback circle. Both a “self” and “observer” version of the GlobeInvent was developed.

Finally, the authors point out that while leaders are icons for followers as long as the going is good, they can so easily turn into scapegoats when things go wrong. The GlobeInvent points out the qualities of great leadership and also serves as an effective tool of communication, providing leaders a great amount of relevant information for change.

INSEAD 2002

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