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Q: I was recently challenged to explain the Likert scale used to measure the 30 behaviors of the LPI®. Specifically, the client wanted to know why there is no option of 0, which I assumed might be that 0 really has no meaning in the land of statistics. They also asked me to explain why the instructions suggest that choosing 1, 2, or 3 all represent N/A. Can you provide some understanding to help me respond to questions such as these in the future?

A: You are somewhat correct in that zero (0) is not a meaningful number as every number used in the LPI scale (1 – 10) indicates an action (or non-action). In addition, my co-author Jim Kouzes and I fundamentally believe that it is actually impossible to never, ever, ever do something. As a number in statistical scales, zero also tends to skew a normal distribution off from "normal" or bell-shaped with more weight given to the bottom of the scale. This makes statistical tests more problematic but also makes the "curve" look off-balance. Even in school, a student who receives an F on an exam gets more than zero points.

To the question of using 1, 2, or 3 to indicate the LPI statement is not applicable…again, it is our belief that it is impossible to never, ever do something. Therefore, we chose to use the number three (3) as a surrogate for that response ("seldom"), leaving the respondent the option of giving a meaningful one (1) or two (2) as a response which would be an affirmative statement that this behavior is almost never or rarely observed. We have found empirically that the number three was the least used response in the ten-point scale.

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 over 30 books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development, including the fully-revised and updated sixth edition of the international bestseller, The Leadership Challenge, and Learning Leadership, selected by Strategy+Business as one of the 2016 Best Business Books of Year.