Future Leaders & Self-Assessment

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The dynamic culture of tomorrow’s future leaders depends on not only capability and compassion, but on the ability to honestly assess one’s strengths and weaknesses. Just as the cultural market is changing all the time, leaders are continuously evolving and improving. However, just how this looks requires objective assessment which remains clear even as skills grow. While there are many assessment tools to accomplish this the most effective tool is a sound psychological sense of oneself. 

The Value of Assessment

The new perspective of leaders is people-centered, and no longer a simple managerial agenda. Thus, the most effective emerging leaders are those who are first leaders of themselves, and healthy leaders do not bully or manipulate, but seek to assist and inspire. Self-assessment tools are helpful for developing future leaders as they provide a mirror for development, encouragement, and a way to focus skills. Leaders are required to hold the overall vision in their minds of the entire project, and help those under their guidance to work together towards this common goal. As such, “The leader directs the organization to make it more cohesive and coherent. To be able to do this, an effective leader needs to understand why people behave like they do, so that he/she is able to identify challenges and the best way to face them” (Kozak). This requires an astute ability to observe people, and a keen understanding of the psychology of motivation.

These skills must first be applied to oneself to be effective, for no leader will successfully guide others where they are lost themselves. Attempting to do so will only breed resentment. However, when a leader is able to apply objective assessment to themselves there will be no end to the progress they can make. This is because “Self‐evaluation is defined as the process by which the self‐concept is modified and socially negotiated” (Kozak). There are four chief motivations for effective self-assessment:

1. Self-enhancement

2. Self-assessment

3. Self-improvement

4. Self-verification (Kozak)

Each of these motivations can support the other in the overarching aim to become a better leader, progress in one’s career and fulfillment therein. However, in this process it can become confused where effective leadership and results line up. After all, a leader alone cannot make a team, and effective long-term leaders must be able to know the limitations of their staff and themselves. In this way, self-assessment of oneself and one’s team can help structure realistic expectations and goals. The following list are a few of the many self-assessment tools for leaders with a brief description of their focus:

Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS)

o Measures confidence and interest in many skill sets to help focus vocational interest.

Career Leader

o Online tool to focus business interests and clarify which values of business would be utilized best in what area.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

o Most effective personality assessment to understand personality profile, and what type of roles would be most fulfilling.

What Color is Your Parachute?

o A job search assessment tool which emphasizes mirroring your skills with the emerging markets.


o This assessment online tool helps create life maps which show the journey which has come before, and the path for tomorrow. 1

Once self-assessment tools have been utilized a future leader will have a foundational guide from which to build on. Ideally, these assessments would be regularly taken in order to gauge progress and development. This is one way emotional intelligence can be cultivated, which enables leaders to see beyond the black and white of logic into the varied nuances of human emotional interaction where so much communication occurs. Leaders must understand, their “own behavior is controlled by VABEs, which are defined as Values, Assumptions, Beliefs and Expectations. They are used in the Rational‐Emotive‐Behavior Model (REB) to describe human behavior, which is based on the work of Albert Ellis” (Kozak). When a future leader becomes aware of this background in the context of their self-knowledge they will be better equipped to pin point gaps in their own emotional intelligence. Such gaps could inhibit their ability to lead effectively. 

Clearing the Lens

However, the same challenges which apply to self-knowledge apply to manifesting skillful leadership, and the gaps in emotional intelligence can often run as deep as the core of the leader’s personality framework. This is often seen as, “When people are asked to evaluate their own abilities, the assessments they provide tend to be self-serving. Indeed, often, the appraisals that people endorse appear to be favorable to a logically impossible degree” (Dunning, Meyerowitz, and Holzberg 1082). Adding to this matrix is the very real pressure of social conditioning from society. Thus, aspiring future leaders must come to understand the role that cultural identity has on their identity and leadership style if the assessment tools will be used effectively. 

This effect is seen in how cultural norms and the status quo impact the ability of the individual to see their own potential and skills. For example, the gender gap in leadership and entrepreneurship has been studied to discover how potential female leaders and innovators gauge their capacity. The results of this study,

suggest that women are significantly less likely to perceive themselves as able to be an entrepreneur and they hold themselves to a stricter standard of competence when compared to similarly situated men. This gender difference in self-assessments accounts for a significant portion of the gender gap in entrepreneurship after controlling for relevant resources. (Thebaud 288)

This is no surprise, as Patriarchal culture persists in affirming that men are natural leaders and women are natural followers. This is not the case, but the perceived limitation via social conditioning keeps many women from acquiring the objectivity to assess themselves independent of the general opinions and pressures. The convex of this function is men having the tendency to erroneously beef up their self-assessment because of the skew of the status quo. If this occurs it is a result of a deep seated identity delusion that no amount of self-assessment could expose. This would require compassionate and humble reflection. 

One way businesses are attempting to overcome this blowback of delusion in assessments in having leaders assessed by their teams, their own leaders, and their peers (Dunning, Meyerowitz, and Holzberg 1082). It is helpful to gauge self-assessments against the assessments of others. One of the hindrances to authentic self-assessment is the practice of comparing oneself not to one’s ideal or personal best, but simply comparing oneself to those around one. This is a function of the status quo, which seeks mediocrities’ rise only in small, comfortable degrees, and those who excel beyond the comfort of this median line will be socially punished. While most of this is occurring quite unconsciously, leaders understand they should be good, but not too good. This makes the process of self-assessment quite tainted through the lens of the status-quo, and not to mention the further taint of motivation. 

Some leaders may so blindly pursue their goals that they will lie and self-delude in order to get in the role they desire. This propensity is further encouraged by the cutthroat nature of corporate competition, which may be slowing down in favor of teamwork, but this is yet to be reflected in education and prep. However, some programs understand the nature and motivation for why someone seeks a leadership role is just as important as their skills, and are making self-assessment a key part of their education and training program. For example, for principles in training,

Currently, only 40 percent of training program participants who complete district internships actually go on to become principals or assistant principals. The rest fail the district’s assessment process, aren’t selected by a local school council, or decide the job isn’t for them. (The Wallace Foundation)

While some might call this a failing percentage, from the perspective of the assessment the right people got through the training. 

Honest Self-Assessment

A leader’s skills must be different from those they hope to lead, for their role is different. The most important skill may be the ability to be self-directed, not requiring outside influence to accomplish tasks while still remaining open to outside impact. Communication skills must be developed so that leaders are able to share the vision of the group’s aims with clarity and inspirational energy (Mooney). Effective communication may be done through “mirroring”, the act of speaking to others in the language they speak to you. This increases coherence and feelings of synergy. Honesty will increase with how deeply it is valued, and those who work with an honest leader will feel more secure in their footing. 


Future leaders ability to self-assess may be one strong determining factor for their efficacy as leaders. Knowing one’s motivation for leading, one’s skills, and how those skills can help others uncover their own skills requires constant objective observation of how leadership tactics work and when. Leaders have complex and challenging roles, and it is key that they not be undermined by a faulty psychology mired in the status quo, social conditioning, and the limitations of rising just above the median line. Authentic leaders are emerging who understand this need to transcend the known and done, and innovate new approaches for diverse solutions. Self-assessment is a key aspect of this process.


1: Self-assessment guides found on: http://www.bridgespan.org/Publications-and-Tools/Career-Professional-Development/NonprofitCareers/Guide-to-Self-Assessment-Tools.aspx#.V5zzDPxrj_w

Works Cited

Gallo, Amy. “The 8 Self-Assessments You Need to Improve at Work This Year.” Harvard Business Review, 20 Jan. 2016. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2016/01/the-8-self-assessments-you-need-to-improve-at-work-this-year

Kozak, Peter. “Self Evaluation / Self Assessment as it relates to leaders today.” QUADROtech Solutions AG, 8 Jul. 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140708200151-73932761-self-evaluation-self-assessment-as-it-relates-to-leaders-today

Dunning, David, Judith A. Meyerowitz, and Amy D. Holzberg. “Ambiguity and self-evaluation: The role of idiosyncratic trait definitions in self-serving assessments of ability.” Journal of personality and social psychology 57.6 (1989): 1082. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Dunning2/publication/230726573_Ambiguity_and_Self-Evaluation_The_Role_of_Idiosyncratic_Trait_Definitions_in_Self-Serving_Assessments_of_Ability/links/55ef042808ae199d47bff2e4.pdf

Mooney, Lisa. “Examples of Core Competencies for Self-Appraisal.” Azcentral.com, 2016. Retrieved from: http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/examples-core-competencies-selfappraisal-28837.html

Thébaud, Sarah. “Gender and entrepreneurship as a career choice do self-assessments of ability matter?.” Social Psychology Quarterly 73.3 (2010): 288-304. Retrieved from: http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/images/journals/docs/pdf/spq/Sept10SPQFeature.pdf

The Bridgespan Group. “Guide to Selected Self-Assessment Tools.” Bridgespan.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.bridgespan.org/Publications-and-Tools/Career-Professional-Development/NonprofitCareers/Guide-to-Self-Assessment-Tools.aspx#.V5zzDPxrj_w

The Wallace Foundation. “The Making of the Principle: Five Lessons in Leadership Training.” Wallacefoundation.org, Jun. 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/The-Making-of-the-Principal-Five-Lessons-in-Leadership-Training.pdf