Using 360-Degree Assessments with Personality for Leadership Development


A few months ago, we closed out a year-long senior leadership development program with a multibillion-dollar organization. This organization is going through one of the largest transformations in recent US history. As a result, its leaders faced the potential challenge of their job roles changing underneath them. Our leadership development program included a facilitation, the Hogan personality assessments, 360-degree assessments (specifically, the Hogan 360), coaching, a capstone project, and more. For the closing session, the organization’s CEO was on the call with 15 of organization’s top leaders. One by one, the leaders gave feedback that the assessment was the program’s most important element to their development.

I wasn’t surprised.

I believe that a key to our success was combining the Hogan Personality Inventory, the Hogan Development Survey, and the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory with a 360-degree assessment. Using the Hogan 360 and the Hogan personality assessments, we created custom leader dashboards that integrated the results of both types of assessments. These were designed to show leaders where they should focus their development now and in the future.

After the program concluded, one of the leaders I debriefed hand-wrote a two-page letter to my office that called the experience life-changing. She had been struggling with difficult issues with a few people she was leading, and the 360-degree assessments bore that out. But her Hogan personality assessment results helped her understand the personality characteristics and drivers that were leading to her frustrations, offering a path forward. The leader was also looking toward a promotion into the C-suite, and she said the Hogan 360 gave her a great view of what to work on now. Meanwhile, the Hogan results helped her identify what she would need to focus on in a different role in a different context.

It also did not surprise me that the leader was able to address the challenges with her direct reports and get on track for a C-suite role. A key element of successful leadership development is helping leaders cultivate strategic self-awareness. Building strategic self-awareness through feedback helps leaders get a view of how others perceive them. With this knowledge, they can target behaviors for change, internalize those changes, and seek more feedback. This is why, in picking an assessment tool, sometimes the best answer is to use more than one.

Combining Assessment Tools for Leadership Development

The most common tool used in leadership development to help leaders understand how they are perceived and build self-awareness is the 360-degree assessment. The 360-degree assessment allows leaders to rate themselves and compare their self-assessment to the ratings of their managers, peers, direct reports, and other key stakeholders.

Personality assessments help close the gap between 360-degree assessments, which focus on competencies, and all the dimensions that play a role in building strong leaders. If you imagine an iceberg, experiences and competencies are the observable and measurable behaviors and skills above the water line. But most of the iceberg is below the waterline — that’s where we find personality characteristics and values that are harder to see and develop. Combining the two tools can provide robust “whole-person” feedback to a leader.

Another powerful aspect of combining 360-degree assessments and personality assessments is perspective. Feedback from a 360-degree assessment gives leaders a snapshot view from a particular group of people in their current job context and at a particular point in time. Well-validated personality assessments, on the other hand, are stable and predictive of performance. These provide a motion-picture view by characterizing a person’s reputation in multiple contexts over time.

Six Benefits of Combining 360-Degree Assessments with Personality Assessments

Taking this combined approach ensures organizations and leaders receive a strong return on investment for their time, effort, and money by giving leaders a robust view of the entire “iceberg,” not just what’s visible above the surface. Here are six other specific benefits of the combined approach.

  1. Diversity and inclusion–informed feedback – From a diversity and inclusion perspective, 360s present some challenges. Research has shown the potential for bias in rater feedback. For example, some studies have suggested women tend to rate themselves harder than others, raters tend to rate women harder than men, and women tend to receive more vague feedback.i This is one reason 360s should not be used as selection tools. Scientifically validated personality assessments, such as the Hogan assessments, have no adverse impact based on race, gender, or national origin. These can show how people are likely to be seen without the unconscious bias that shows up in the limited pool of people rating the leader. It is essential, both with 360s and personality assessments, to disclose these facts to clients.
  2. Integrated feedback and custom dashboards – As with all assessments, integrating the feedback for participants is critical to identifying what leaders need to focus on in their current job and organizational context, as well as for roles they may seek in the future. This can be done both through the feedback process itself and by writing custom dashboards. Dashboards should provide leaders with an overview of the snapshot to focus on now, the motion picture view for the future, and two to three narrow areas of focus for development.
  3. Focused feedback – There are so many scales and so little time — both for the feedback debrief and for leaders who are looking to capitalize on those results. Collecting information about job and organizational context and viewing résumés in advance can help you identify the most important things to focus on for the leader.
  4. Evidence-based assessments – Not all assessments are created equally. In both personality assessments and 360s, it’s important to look for tools that have strong normative data backing them. Second, they should have research behind them that demonstrates validity. And third, they should be based on a proven competency framework with data to connect it to leadership success. Many type indicators are marketed as personality assessments, but they often provide leaders only with an “inside view” of themselves. That is, this type of assessment tends to show leaders how they think about themselves, not necessarily how others see them. A strong personality assessment should provide an “outside view” of the leader. This is the leader’s reputation, which is what affects career success.
  5. Competency mapping between the assessments – One great way to use the tools together is to map the competencies on the 360-degree assessment to personality characteristics and drivers on the personality assessments. A leader may struggle in one area on the 360 but have some personality characteristics that correlate to strength in that competency. The leader can leverage those characteristics for development.
  6. Comparing differences – Personality assessment results describe how others are likely to see a person. Results from a 360 describe how specific people — managers, peers, direct reports, and other stakeholders — see the person. Try comparing personality results to the leader’s self-assessment on the 360-degree assessment and the results from the different rater groups. It can be powerful to talk with a leader about the specific personality characteristics and values that a broader group of people will likely see but that may not be showing up in the 360 feedback. How can these differences in results inform their development?

With the snapshot and the motion picture, leaders gain the power to focus on development strategies for now and the future. While the Hogan assessments and 360-degree assessments can be powerful tools individually, sometimes — like cookies and milk or apples and caramel — two things are better together.

This blog post was authored by Jayson Blair, a member of the Hogan Coaching Network.

Editor’s Note

i. Hogan has done research on rater feedback using the Hogan 360, specifically. Comparing rater feedback for men and rater feedback for women, Hogan’s researchers did not find any significant bias against either gender in Hogan 360 data.