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A 360 leadership assessment is a 360 feedback process that helps holistically assess professionals in leadership roles. The goal of 360 leadership assessment is to provide leaders with insights into their performance, potential, and areas of improvement.
An essential development tool, 360 degree leadership assessment can help increase self-awareness among leaders. Moreover, it is a type of multi-rater feedback where multiple sources participate. Hence, the leaders get to understand how their colleagues, direct reports, clients, and other associates perceive them.
Gathering 360 degree feedback for the leadership has several advantages. An unbiased and insightful 360 leadership assessment can be instrumental in promoting a culture of feedback in an organization. It also offers a voice to all employees and helps promote the idea that their voice matters whether or not they agree with their leaders.
This blog deep dives into all the nuances of 360 degree leadership assessment and highlights the best 360 leadership assessment tools. You will also discover all about 360 leaders and ways in which 360 feedback helps develop 360 leadership.
Watch the video below for an explanation and read further to explore them in detail.
360 leadership assessment is a type of multi rater review that helps evaluate and develop professionals in leadership roles. It helps leaders gain insights into their strengths, potential, and areas of improvement, promoting self-awareness and laying the groundwork for streamlined development plans.
Just like other 360 degree assessments, a 360 degree feedback for leadership gathers ratings from multiple sources. Therefore, all employees across all levels in an organization get a platform to share their perspective and perception of the leader being evaluated. This holistic approach creates a sense of justice and equality in the professional space. Therefore, to gain the maximum benefit from a 360 leadership development survey, it is important that the leaders approach the process with a positive, objective, non-defensive attitude.
Feedback from multiple sources has a more powerful impact on people than feedback from a single source. It is also important to remember that feedback can be positive as well as negative. And both kinds are essential for sustainable growth. On the one hand, positive traits can be duplicated and adopted widely because they work. And on the other hand, negative traits can be worked upon and improved.
In fact, no organizational action has more power for motivating employee behavior change than feedback from credible work associates. That, precisely, is the idea behind inclusive leadership 360 feedback. Just like other professionals, leaders too need regular and honest critique. The holistic approach of 360 leadership diagnostic ensures the same. However, that is not the sole reason why a 360 leadership feedback survey is so relevant in modern workplaces.
Evaluating leadership skills via 360 feedback can be a powerful mechanism to cultivate a healthy mindset of being open to criticism. Therefore, 360 degree leadership assessment doubles up as a self-improvement tool for the leaders being assessed. As leaders are also a part of the assessment process, they can compare similarities and differences in how they perceive themselves, and how their reports perceive them. All of it further helps build an understanding of the type of leader they are and the type of leader they aspire to be. Using the gaps in perception, leaders can then work towards making changes and adjustments to improve. All of these are the traits of a 360 leader- a concept we will elaborate on in the next chapter.
It is all about transforming leaders to promote the right values and nurture the right culture in the company. So, if the vision of your company is to be a safe space for professional critique, 360 leadership assessment is one of the best investments that will help you realize it.
Leaders can make the best use of the assessment results by assuming that the feedback is reasonably fair and accurate because it is a multi rater, 360 degree mechanism. It is crucial for the leaders to know that others are highlighting the good and the bad only to help them grow. And this understanding is the first step towards changing behaviors that have been identified as detracting from the leader’s overall effectiveness. When actions are changed, the leader can more effectively lead others by earning their respect, trust, and loyalty.
360 degree leadership or 360 leadership refers to leadership principles that are out-of-the-box, inspiring, free of biases, and open to criticism. It is an empowering upgrade to conventionally rigid leadership patterns because it focuses on people instead of business. It is all about nurturing work relationships that are rooted in team spirit and collective success. 360 leaders, therefore, are leaders who have the skill, ability, and willingness to inspire people at every level of an organization.
Every organization needs 360-degree leaders. They are professionals who possess adaptability, discernment, perspective, communication, security, resourcefulness, maturity, endurance, and the assurance that they can always be counted on by colleagues, mentees, clients, and associates.
360 degree leaders make optimum use of opportunity and potential to become high impact professionals. In the book The 360 Degree Leader, author John Maxwell elaborates on three key attributes of a 360 degree leader. Those attributes involve their ability to:
Leading up is the process of influencing a leader. It includes lightening the leader’s load by being willing to help in ways others won’t. Simultaneously, it is also about knowing when to push forward and when to back off.
Leaders at the mid-level can help peers achieve positive results, encourage the best ideas, and garner mutual respect. Therefore, such leaders must develop and maintain credibility, and continually exert influence.
Leaders at the top who lead down help people realize their potential, become a strong role model, and encourage others to become part of a higher purpose. This involves walking through the halls, transferring the vision, and rewarding for results.
360 leaders are the most valuable leaders for any company today. Their contribution to an organization is not limited to personal responsibility. Instead, they become a mentor for teams and a crucial driving force for professionals across hierarchies.
Having 360 leaders in a company propels the business towards a 360 degree growth in more ways than one. They possess the apt attitude and aptitude to build a wholesome work environment that is accepting, open, creative, and free of office politics. As 360 leaders are also the champions of company culture and vision, people look up to them. Hence, they also play a vital role in employee motivation.
The first step towards becoming a 360 degree leader is to let go of any prejudices one may have when in a senior position. There are several other challenges that a leader or aspiring 360 leader needs to overcome. There can be the pressure to wear many hats when in a leadership role and a reluctance to be assessed. However, to become a 360 degree leader, professionals need to be able to accept feedback in a holistic way and be willing to accept that they too, may have areas of improvement. The idea is to constantly learn and work on those areas of improvement.
One of the effective ways for leaders to grow into 360 leaders is by receiving 360 degree feedback about their performance, productivity, and behavior at the workplace. Constant feedback not only helps analyze individuals’ capacity as leaders but also helps boost their overall effectiveness.
A holistic 360 degree leadership assessment is an excellent tool to evaluate if potential leaders have the above-mentioned qualities. Moreover, the assessment reports can be used as the basis for formulating L&D plans to develop the 360 leadership attributes in professionals.
360 leadership assessment works to provide talent management solutions in both Leadership and Training & Development. Hence, using the best 360 leadership assessment tools can help when an organization is:
A well-rounded support system, the leadership 360 feedback may well be the ideal way to get an idea of the bigger picture of how team members are interacting and the leader best suited for that team. It helps motivate employees to reach their full potential and develop a better understanding of the workforce’s 360 leadership potential.
Organizations enjoy undeniable benefits when they adopt a 360 feedback approach for their leaders. As we will see in Chapter 4, an impactful 360 leadership assessment strategy can help nurture an environment where constructive and open feedback is not just accepted but also, appreciated. More importantly, regularly assessing leaders through a multi-rater mechanism has the following advantages.
360 leadership assessments are an excellent medium to create self-awareness among leaders. To begin with, the holistic approach of this type of assessment resolves the conundrum of having no one to evaluate leaders. Furthermore, leaders are able to get a well-rounded, broad view of their management practices. Comparing feedback from multiple sources with their own perceptions, helps identify blind spots and work on them. Eventually, it becomes the starting point of a journey toward improving working relationships and optimizing leadership.
360 feedback for leaders can be a powerful tool for transformation and improvement. Results of a 360 degree leadership assessment can be very helpful for the leaders to focus on learning skills and modifying behaviors with the goal to maximize their impact as leaders.
One of the key benefits of 360 evaluations for leaders is that they form the basis for customized, individual development plans. That enables leaders to take control of their career paths because tailored training and development are the basis for continuous improvement.
When support for a 360 degree feedback is demonstrated from top down, it shows a strong commitment from senior administration to workplace learning. As a result, the entire workforce feels encouraged to invest in its own learning and growth. Eventually, motivation levels rise and there is a higher degree of achievement across the organization.
When the results of a 360-leadership assessment are accepted with humility, respect, and a willingness to grow, it can have a wonderful ripple effect. Colleagues and subordinates of the leaders take the cue and strive for continuous improvement. It leads to a highly contagious positivity in outlook and professionalism.
Makes leaders more efficient and capable of becoming 360 leaders
With the information and perspective gained from a 360 assessment, leaders can be smarter in their learning efforts. They become more able to prioritize what areas they need to focus on in order to reach their maximum potential and grow into 360 degree leaders.
Establish benchmarks for continuous growth
The key to becoming 360 leaders is the constant motivation to grow as a leader. The same can happen only when there are realistic benchmarks that help the leaders gauge their progress over time. Comprehensive results from a successful 360 feedback exercise help establish those benchmarks.
Double up as a demonstration of team spirit and equity
As stated earlier, one of the qualities of 360 leaders is that they encourage the growth of every individual on the workforce. That also means respecting all opinions and voices. Hence, when leaders open up to honest critique from multiple sources, they prove their openness to hear all voices. Eventually, such a healthy exchange of ideas blooms into an inspiring force for organizational success.
The first step towards building an efficient and sustainable 360 leadership assessment strategy is to have a clear vision of your company’s goals. You need to be aware of the type of feedback culture and values you want to nurture and why. More importantly, you need to be ready to make changes at a fundamental level for 360 degree feedback and leadership development.
In the NY Times bestseller No Rules Rules, Netflix founder Reed Hastings along with author Erin Meyer outline the feedback approach that revolutionized the work culture at Netflix- Of a regular, open, and non-anonymous critique.
I saw that openly voicing opinions and feedback, instead of whispering behind one another’s backs reduced the backstabbing and politics and allowed us to be faster. The more people heard what they could do better, the better everyone got at their jobs, the better we performed as a company. That is when we coined the expression – ‘Only say about someone what you will say to their face.
In most situations, both social and professional, people who consistently say what they really think are quickly isolated, even banished. But at Netflix, we embrace them. We work hard to get people to give each other constructive feedback — up, down, and across the organisation — on a continual basis.
Of course, an immediate removal of anonymity from 360 degree leadership assessment might not work for all scenarios. Therefore, the goal should be to take baby steps towards encouraging leaders to open up about feedback from multiple sources. It is also crucial to learn about leadership styles prevalent in your company and their effects on the collective workplace morale. Such insights can be very helpful for creating not just a 360 leadership assessment template but also, a future-ready 360 leadership training plan.
The procedure to conduct a 360 leadership feedback can be segregated into four stages: Assessment design, assessment execution, analysis of the results, and taking action based on those results. Under each stage, there are steps such as:
All these steps are discussed in detail below.
Competency frameworks and asking leadership- focused 360 feedback questions
It is essential to choose a 360 leadership assessment that is in line with the roles and responsibilities of leaders in your organization. A great way to ensure that the 360 degree feedback leadership questions hit the key areas is to opt for a customized competency based survey. The latter works by combining a specific set of core competencies to focus on the most important growth opportunities, leaving out the areas that are less relevant for your leaders and your organization.
Choosing the best 360 leadership assessment tool
The best 360 leadership assessment tools are those that have a user-friendly interface, include actionable 360 leadership summary reports, and custom question banks for you to choose. It is a good idea to look at 360 leadership assessment examples and compare the features of the top 360 assessment tools to find the right fit for your organization.
Our detailed guide on How to Choose the Right 360-Degree Feedback Tool offers in-depth information on this subject.
To execute the survey for a 360 degree assessment of leaders, organizations should first decide who will give the feedback. It is always better to focus on individuals who have experience working with and collaborating with the leaders who are being assessed. That is what ensures a bias-free, just feedback session.
It is crucial to set up multiple emails/reminders/ invites and follow up with the participants to encourage them to share their ratings. Every stakeholder needs to understand the objective and outcome of the exercise for it to offer meaningful results.
The third stage of the 360 leadership feedback process is all about:
a. Collating the results.
b. Analyzing the reports at an individual and department level to create actionable developmental plans.
This part of the undertaking can drive the maximum ROI for the 360 leadership feedback process because it helps identify gaps in perception across the leaders’ self-assessment, managers, peers and others.
The reports should have a detailed competency summary, open-ended feedback, a personal development plan, and other powerful insights. Based on the latter, it becomes easier to identify and develop several 360 degree leaders.
The outcome of the entire exercise of 360 leadership assessment is used to facilitate a decision-making process. The actionable reports help take steps toward implementing changes in the form of:
As one of the most employee-friendly 360 leadership assessment tools, Mercer | Mettl’s 360 View offers a holistic, quick, and compact mechanism for 360 leadership assessment. It seamlessly integrates with an organization’s workflow and helps overcome major challenges like lack of transparency in feedback, procrastination, and skipping the negatives. On the contrary, the tool helps streamline the entire leadership assessment process.
Elimination of operational hassles
360 View ensures quick setup, effortless execution, and automation at all stages of the 360 leadership assessment process. It is designed to make the process easy for all stakeholders.
Custom 360 feedback questions for leadership
Organizations can reap the benefits of 360 degree feedback for leadership roles with the help of custom 360 leadership assessment questions and rating systems.
Sample questions for 360 degree leadership assessment
How often does the leader listen to team members in an unbiased way to resolve conflicts?
a. Almost always
How often is the leader successful in persuading others to reach winning solutions?
a. Almost always
360 degree leadership assessment is an inclusive and sustainable process that helps organizations hold critical conversations across hierarchies. It offers a powerful opportunity for leaders to inspire positive change in the company and encouraging a healthy exchange of ideas, opinions, possibilities, and feedback in all forms. As leaders begin to grow a refined, progressive mindset, they help nurture the same principles in their surroundings. Eventually, regular 360 feedback for the leadership sets them on the path to becoming 360 degree leaders.
A 360 leadership review is a leadership assessment mechanism that helps evaluate an individual’s leadership qualities using ratings from multiple sources. Professionals throughout organizational hierarchies can participate in the review process, sharing their views about the leader’s competency to lead, their performance, and behavioral aspects.
360 assessment or 360 degree feedback is a performance management/review process that evaluates professionals on several competencies. The feedback is gathered from multiple sources irrespective of organizational hierarchy. Therefore, leaders can receive 360 assessment from their colleagues, clients, as well as subordinates and reports. The multi-rater approach of 360 assessment makes it a holistic, unbiased, and growth-centric employee evaluation mechanism.
In his book The 360 Leader, author John C. Maxwell enlists seven major 360 leadership myths.Position myth: The belief that you need a title to be able to lead,Destination myth: The belief that you can only lead from the top,Influence myth: Being in a leadership position automatically lends you the ability to be influential,Inexperience myth: The mistaken belief that when people get to the top, they’ll automatically be in control,Freedom myth: Once leaders make it to the top, their role is a ticket to freedom,Potential myth: People cannot reach their potential unless they’re top leaders,The all-or-nothing myth: People won’t try to lead unless they can get to the top.The truth is, to be a successful leader, one does not need a title. Professionals can always move beyond the boundaries of a leader’s job description to become inspiring role models. While people need to strive to do their best, they don’t necessarily need to aspire to be at the top of their organization. Often the greatest impact is made from the middle. Also, becoming a leader does not necessarily mean more freedom because 360 leadership is all about embracing the new responsibilities that come with such a leadership position.
Originally published June 30 2021, Updated November 3 2021
D’ipanjenah is a writer and marketing professional associated with Mercer Mettl since 2020. Her working style thrives on a balanced approach towards standard insights and novel trends. She utilizes creative content and digital strategies to help brands start important conversations. When not reading/writing, she enjoys art and parents a calico.
360 degree feedback is a method of collecting anonymous feedback about an employee from multiple sources - manager, peers, subordinates - for appraisals and organizational planning. 360 degree feedback empowers organizations to make better people decisions.