Actually, the title is a bit misleading. I actually want to ask you who would you promote, but this didn’t seem quite as catchy a headline. So, here’s the situation. You have a senior position available in your organization, and it is up to you to decide between two internal candidates. Both are high achieving and have consistent track records of success. And, you have available to you the results of 360 degree feedback, a tool you may or may not be aware of. Simply put, it is one way to obtain performance feedback from a large cross-section of co-workers….not just the person’s manager, but also peers and subordinates. I’ll share with you the feedback from the 360 feedback and ask you what decision you’d make. Who would you promote?
Below is a summary of the feedback your two candidates have received from the 360 feedback process. I’ve summarized the results into three categories: Those attributes for which Candidate A gets superior ratings, those for which Candidate B is superior, and those for which the two are equal.
If you’re at all like me, the choice seems pretty clear. Candidate A looks like the better choice, though Candidate B is not without some clear strengths. So, what am I getting at here? Well, a lesson, I hope, but first a little explanation.
This summary actually comes from real data collected by Zenger Folkman, a leadership consultancy, and is based on real 360 feedback from 16,000 senior executives, collected during 2011 and 2012. But, instead of showing you results for two individuals, they are for two groups of people: Women and men…..in that order. Now, go back and look at the summary. For a set of generally-acknowledged leadership characteristics, women executives outshine the men, rather significantly.
Last week, I noted that ‘humility’, something Jim Collins would argue is the hallmark of the truly exceptional leaders, is discouraged in women, and I despaired. I also referenced Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ as well as ‘The Confidence Gap’, a recent Atlantic article. In both, women are encouraged to act more like men in order to succeed. Be aggressive….develop some confidence in yourself…speak much and loudly. Then, I look at the results from the Zenger Folkman survey, and I see yet more evidence that the advice we give shouldn’t be to act more like men, but for women to truly embody what and who they already are. Based on these findings, women as a group are better leaders than men. So, here we have a large group of people who seem to have skills and traits that are highly adaptive, and yet we are discouraging them to be themselves and encouraging them to be like another group who are…excuse me, gentlemen….inferiors. I despair even more.
Last week, I asked the question, “Is humility a strength or a deficiency?” This week, I ask, “Should women be more like men or more like women?” The next two posts will cover two more topics:
- The huge importance of individual differences in the process of developing people into powerful leaders
- The equal importance of starting early, before and during college.