Comparing Scores to Other Leaders?

Barry Posner

Q: I just started The Leadership Challenge journey. I am a day and a half into the program and am really impressed with the content and your book. I am curious to find out if we can compare our ratings to other leaders we might want to emulate.  Could I compare and get the deltas between my Leadership Behaviors Ranking and theirs? Is there a way for you to generically post the averages of leaders so that The Leadership Challenge® Workshop attendees could map themselves against fantastic leaders? This comparison could help all of us grow in many ways?

A: Thanks for your note and glad to hear that you are enjoying and prospering from The Leadership Challenge® Workshop.  Your idea is an interesting one but raises the philosophical question of "what defines success" as a leader?  We comment on this notion in both The Leadership Challenge and Credibility.  The point is that there is no perfect score, alas, no perfect leader. We all have our flaws, flat sides, areas for improvement. We are all human.

We have never had a leader who has given him or herself a score of 10 on all thirty statements on the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI).  We have never had a leader receive a score of 60 on each leadership practice from every one of their constituents.  When a leader receives a score of 60 from a constituent he/she often ignores it because they realize that (a) they are not perfect and (b) feel that this respondent did not give enough consideration to their feedback and behavior in order to differentiate.  Indeed, some of the lowest LPI scores (Self) that I have seen have come from some of the people I most admire as leaders.  They know that the more they know, the more there is to know.

Philosophically, Jim and I have maintained that leaders are learners, and that the best leaders are always learning and open to learning.  This means that they are in search of perfection, never believing that they are perfect.  We believe that everyone's LPI scores, no matter what their baseline, can be improved.  For these reasons we do not postulate a perfect score, an idealized score or set of scores, or publish the highest scores ever received or the scores of "famous" (well-known or public) figures.

There is no point in comparing yourself to any other leader.  The point is how you can improve your own scores—that is, engage in these behaviors and practices more than you are currently doing. 

Wishing you all the best in every leadership adventure.

Barry Z. Posner is Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, where he served as Dean for 12 years, at Santa Clara University. Together with Jim Kouzes, he is author of The Leadership Challenge and over a twenty other books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development.

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