Ask an Expert: July 2016

Ask an Expert: July 2016

Barry Posner

Q:  I’ve used the LPI®: Leadership Practices Inventory® with close to 1,000 leaders in various parts of the world, most recently with a group of 24 leaders with an Ireland-based client. During the workshop we hit a roadblock I’ve encountered before when conducting LPI sessions on the Green Isle. When reviewing the Percentile Rankings, without fail, the mood drops and people feel despondent. You see, the scores are average to below-average on the ranking. And in this latest session, two of the seven participants were not Irish yet they, too, had below-average scores. 

I’ve begun to wonder if the Irish are rating people harshly. I frequently see LPI scores in the lower third, and rarely, if ever, in the upper third. So, is there any data that might demonstrate if Irish leaders score characteristically low compared to leaders in other parts of the world?

A:  Thanks, first of all, for putting your trust in our materials and leadership development framework to develop exemplary leaders. To answer your question broadly, I want you to know that we typically find that when participants around the globe look at leadership through the lens of their Personal Best Leadership Experience they typically don't have any problem understanding The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® framework. They seem ready to learn about how they can be more effective without much consideration of how they compare with anyone else in any other place or location. 

The LPI provides them with some clues about how frequently they currently use these leadership practices. And our belief is that their first "scores" are neither good nor bad, but simply a baseline for determining where they would like to focus on becoming even better.  

As to whether the Irish are any more or less likely to be using The Five Practices, here are the average (mean) scores from all leaders and all observers compared with those who indicate their nationality as Irish (or being from Ireland): 









Model the Way





Inspire a Shared Vision





Challenge the Process





Enable Others to Act





Encourage the Heart





You can see that Irish leaders themselves (SELF) rate their frequency generally lower than do leaders from around the globe, but it’s important to note that the rank order of The Five Practices is the same. Irish observers rate leaders about the same or somewhat lower in frequency than do observers from around the globe (again with the same rank order).  Additional analysis revealed that responses of Irish leaders were significantly lower than reported by Irish observers, and this finding is consistent with the global data set.

Please take a look at our most recent research report, Bringing the Rigors of Research to the Art of Leadershipwhich provides a great deal of useful information, especially helpful to becoming more conversant with the evidence behind The Five Practices framework and the LPI. Specifically, you will see that "nationality" does not account for any significant explained variance around engagement levels for the direct reports of leaders, while assessments of how frequently their leaders use The Five Practices accounts for more than one-third of that same variance. Indeed, the analysis shows that 44.1 percent of the variance around engagement levels of direct reports IN IRELAND is accounted for by how frequently they indicate their leaders use The Five Practices (with demographics explaining only 1.1 percent).

Finally, remember that the LPI is not a grade; it’s a measure of how frequently a leader is doing something. I encourage you to focus on helping your leaders increase the frequency of the behaviors associated with exemplary leadership and The Five Practices. We recommend that leaders not focus on the percentile ranking when thinking about their own development because it truly is not the most important scale to look at when making personal plans. Whichever percentile leaders are in right now, we know that if they deliberately practice demonstrating these behaviors more frequently they will increase engagement and lead more effectively.

Barry Posner, Ph.D., is the Accolti Endowed Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, where he served as Dean for 12 years. Together with Jim Kouzes, he is author of The Leadership Challenge—now in its fifth edition—and over 30 other books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development, including the recently-released Learning Leadership.


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