But with smart tests and training to identify leadership traits, they could change that.
Most leaders are made, not born.
Two out of three American workers feel disengaged from the work they do, according to recently-released data from Gallup. And bad managers are at least partially to blame for that, the study finds.
Gallup’s managing partner Larry Emond boils it down to this: Only 10% of us are “hard-wired” to be managers. The rest of us have to learn to lead — but companies often make mistakes when appointing people to senior roles. Emond points to data that indicates companies choose the wrong people for the job 82% of the time.
“We’ve gotten stupider about figuring out who is going to be a good manager, and trying to get them into the right job,” says Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. What’s more, “companies have gotten penny-wise and pound-foolish,” when it comes to investing in training and development of future leaders, he notes.
Indeed, experts say that companies should be looking for certain traits — and to foster and develop those traits — in the people they do choose as manager. These include extroversion, humility, communication skills and self-confidence, says Dr. Dina Krasikova, an organizational psychologist and professor of management at the University of Texas who has conducted various studies in this field.
Another often-overlooked trait that makes a good leader: conscientiousness, says Capelli. “Conscientious people are reliable, meet deadlines, and pay their bills on time. They are very hard-working and self-disciplined” — qualities that would come in handy in a management position,” psychologist Angela Ducksworth wrote in a 2011 study on the topic.
There are ways to identify these traits in managers, including psychological assessments and other tests, as well as better interviewing questions by hiring managers, according to Emond. Questions the tests might ask candidates include examples like: “How likely are you to talk to people that you don’t know?” and “Do you enjoy interacting with people, or do you like reading books more?” Krasikova says, noting that test makers can incorporate special validity scales to identify when respondents might be giving dishonest answers.
While administering these kinds of tests can cost $1,000 or more — which may be why businesses don’t routinely do them — that’s still often lower than the costs that come with turnover from people leaving because of a bad manager. And companies should invest in more comprehensive leadership training to help future managers cultivate these skills as well — a view that’s held by experts like Cappelli.
Of course, this won’t guarantee companies always get it right. “If you want to put yourself in a position to be a leader, what you really need is experience leading stuff,” Cappelli adds. And, sometimes, that means that trial and error is the best policy.
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