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Unbiased Understanding of Strengths and Weaknesses

To improve in any endeavor, one must learn. Even seasoned leaders must learn from their mistakes and build on their strengths. A self-aware leader, one with an unbiased understanding of their performance, more fully recognizes their strengths and limitations.[1] They have a greater appreciation of their capabilities and know when they need assistance. An organization benefits when good leaders come to know when they must inspire others to follow their example and when they need to lean on others for support. Accurate self-assessment is a moral duty of a leader.[2]

Benefits of Unbiased Understanding of One’s Abilities

A leader that is open-minded to feedback and is cognizant of their limited abilities in specific areas will be better equipped to benefit from reality. Recognizing one’s attributes helps anyone in their personal and professional lives. Leaders especially benefit. By coming to understand strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs, anyone can improve the quality of their decisions and behavior.[3] Values and beliefs are fortified when one can establish an overarching purpose for their life. This clear purpose serves them as their ongoing motivation to reach their priorities.[4]

Connection with Followers

In 2002, Jay Conger and Ginka Toegel released a study about 360-degree multi-rater feedback. Conger researches leadership, executive derailment, and how organizations can effectively develop a new generation of leaders. Toegel’s research interests include multi-source feedback, processing negative emotion, and the study of management and psychology. In their study, they espoused multi-rater feedback as an excellent mechanism to give leaders a more precise picture of their leadership attributes.[5]

With multi-source feedback, leaders desire and value different opinions, especially those of subordinates who usually don’t have a loud voice in leader evaluation. Hearing what followers have to say goes a long way with them. Listening to followers builds a leader’s credibility with them, which is the foundation for a healthy leader-follower relationship.[6]

The Problems with Overrating and Misdiagnosis

Leaders who think too highly of themselves and alienate others whose opinions they feel matter less than their own drive a wedge into their relationships with people. Overrating attributes and misdiagnosing missteps are particularly problematic forms of self-deception. These evaluative limitations harm one’s leadership effectiveness and competence.[7] Consider the self-deceptive leader. Self-deception is maladaptive. It leads to unrealistic optimism and an overrating of one’s attributes. The result is a leader who is less equipped to make unbiased decisions and operates in a dysfunctional manner.[8]

A leader may disagree with feedback from anyone involved in a 360-degree review. They don’t have to agree. In fact, their opinion may be more accurate if properly self-assessed. However, if they don’t agree with the feedback and spend mental energy trying to justify their actions to either themselves or to others, they deplete some of their psychological resources. If a leader wastes time and effort trying to make themselves look good to others, they spend less time exploring true self-expression.[9] When a leader misattributes their successes and failures, especially when it is done in the interest of self-enhancement, not self-efficacy, accuracy suffers.[10]

Everyone in an organization benefits when a leader is in tuned with their abilities and weaknesses, and works to improve. Followers appreciate when a leader can acknowledge their own faults as well as their attributes. The leader does not have to agree with feedback given by others, but it takes a confident leader to respect the opinions of others and take this information at face value.


  • leaders can improve the quality of their decisions by understanding their strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs

  • multi-rater, 360-degree feedback gives a leader a more precise picture of their leadership attributes

  • misdiagnosis of one’s leadership attributes is problematic, as it contributes to self-deception

[1] Day & Lance (2004) [2] Caldwell & Hayes (2016) [3] Hinkle (2018) [4] Caldwell & Hayes (2016) [5] Conger & Toegel (2002) [6] Kouzes & Posner (2012) [7] Dierdorff et al. (2019) [8] Bachkirova (2015) [9] Kuntz & Abbott (2017) [10] Shepperd et al. (2008).

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