Self-Deception and Leadership

image-2953-640_panofree-rejo-2953*This post was authored by Robert Hogan & Ryne Sherman.

There is a fascinating connection between two seemingly unrelated topics: self-deception and leadership. The two themes often come together in the lives of prominent politicians, for example, in the career of Barack Obama. Let us explain.

We are both fascinated by the idea that people often do things for reasons of which they are unaware. On the one hand, it is pretty obvious that people frequently act without knowing (or caring) why they behave as they do. On the other hand, why is that? For Freud, unconscious thoughts are created by what he called “repression:” one part of the mind (the Ego) recognizes that another part of the mind (the Id) prompts us to do things that will be great fun but which will get us in trouble. The Ego saves us from ourselves by repressing the impulses of the Id—most of the time. But from time to time, the Id escapes the Ego, and we do naughty things. Even then, however, the Ego protects us by “repressing” our awareness of what we have done and why. Freud goes on to say that maturity involves replacing repression with condemnation: immature people repress their socially inappropriate impulses; mature people acknowledge that they have socially inappropriate impulses but refuse to act on them. Read More »

Moral Character Matters, and It Matters Most of All at the Top of Organizations

drew-graham-349640-unsplash*This is a guest post authored by Dr. Nicholas Emler, Professor of Psychology at University of Surrey.

Social organizations generate immense power and great benefits. Today, we rely on social organizations to support every facet of our lives—from food production and distribution to water supply and waste disposal to the provision of health care and national security. However, that power can also be a source of massive harm.  It therefore matters whose hands control the levers of this power. And moral character matters immensely at this level because leaders have significant discretion to act, discretion denied to people lower in the organizational hierarchy.

There are some distinct moral challenges associated with the exercise of organizational leadership; unfortunately, some leaders are not up to these challenges.  This essay identifies seven moral challenges of leadership, and concludes by suggesting that moral failure may be commonplace at the top of social organizations.

The first and most elementary moral challenge concerns the fact that leaders occupy positions of trust; they are entrusted with managing the material resources of the organization. As criminology clearly shows, theft depends on opportunity and most societies are arranged so as to minimize the opportunities available to known delinquents. But matters are very different at the top of organizations; the opportunities and temptations – of personal enrichment at collective expense — can be huge and the strength of character to resist those temptations is often lacking. Read More »

We Don’t Build Bridges from Instinct: An Interview with Dr. Robert Hogan

RT Budapest*This Q&A was originally published by

Dr. Robert Hogan is an international authority in the fields of personality assessment, the assessment of management skills and organisational efficiency. He is the author of more than 300 articles, book chapters and books in total; the founder of Hogan Assessments and eponym of the Hogan test.  Dr. Hogan is a determining personality of 21st century applied business psychology, who is widely acclaimed internationally in scientific and business circles alike. We recently spoke with Dr. Hogan when he was in Budapest to speak at the Future of Coaching in Organisations conference.

May I start with a personal question? Have you always been interested in organisational psychology, or had you previously tried your hand at other fields of psychology?

I’m a retired naval officer. After leaving the navy, I worked with youthful offenders for one and a half years – my interest in psychology derives from these times. I was completely enchanted by the task of understanding how these young people had arrived at this point, many of whom were really smart and good at sports – how did they become youthful offenders? I wanted to find out what could be done to reverse the process which had led them to that point. After this, I decided to pursue a PhD in psychology, and I spent the first 11-13 years of my post-navy career studying crime.

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Assessing the Assessor—Evaluating Personality Assessment Tools

People Matters

*This article was first written by Abhijit Bhaduri for People Matters Magazine, June 2018 issue.

Today, many organizations use personality assessment tools to assess their employees. But before deciding to use a personality tool, should organizations create their own thermometer test? 

Imagine someone walking up to a doctor with a new kind of device that claims to measure the body temperature. What if the manufacturer requested the doctor to endorse the new product? The doctor is the head of a hospital and her endorsement could mean opening up a new market for the manufacturer. How should the doctor go about taking that decision?

The doctor would check it for the safety and reliability of the readings, and calibrate it against thermometers used by the hospital. The doctor could check her own temperature a few times over the hour to check if the reading is consistent. In short, one would take all measures to check the reliability and validity of a product or a tool against the accepted standards.

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Humility, Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness

Ryan Sherman*This article was originally published by Training Industry on May 1, 2018.

One of the best studies ever conducted on organizational effectiveness was done by Jim Collins and described in his book “Good to Great.” Collins identified 11 firms from the Fortune 1000 that had 15 years of below-average performance in their industry followed by 15 years of above-average performance. The key question of the investigation is, what took these 11 firms from “good” to “great”?

Collins ultimately concluded (somewhat reluctantly) that the key driver of change in organizational performance was a change in leadership. However, simply changing the leadership was not enough. Collins found that these 11 high-performing firms chose leaders with an almost paradoxical blend of characteristics: They were fiercely competitive, yet personally humble.

It is easy to understand why leaders who are fiercely competitive are more effective: They want to beat the competition. What is less clear is why humility – as opposed to confidence, charm and charisma – was characteristic of the most effective leaders. This article draws on recent research in personality science to offer three generalizations about humility, leadership and organizational effectiveness.

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Change Management — How Are We Helping Leaders Change?

W8pVD9o3_400x400*This is a guest post authored by Rob Field, Learning and Development Director at Advanced People Strategies.

We all heard it and probably all rolled our eyes to it…’The only constant is change’.

With organisations needing to constantly adapt and evolve due to competitive forces, global challenges or political decisions how are leaders meant to keep up?

Development programmes can provide frameworks and information to help create knowledge. We often see comprehensive change programmes with teams of people lead by programme managers. Effective at reviewing processes and creating the project plan and driving timelines to enable delivery. New systems, processes and products emerge. There are the usual statistics that over 80% of change programmes fail. Kotter would say that we need to attend to eight areas with the final of these being anchoring changes firmly in the corporate culture.

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Hogan to Speak at 2018 E-ATP Conference

KGfi7PW9_400x400Hogan Assessments Managing Director Ryan Ross, Manager of Client Research Kimberly Nei, and Managing Director of Europe Zsolt Feher will be featured speakers at the European Association of Test Publishers Conference on September 26-28 in Athens, Greece. In addition, Hogan will serve as a Gold Sponsor for the event.

The three will speak on three different topics at the conference. Feher, Ross, and Nei will speak during an Ignite Session that will focus on the “State of Affairs in HR Data Analytics – Let’s Not Get Overshadowed by Digital Disruption and Rising Stars.” Ross will speak at a Breakout Session on “Noncognitive Assessment – Applications and Opportunities to Transform Testing.” The third and final session by Nei and Ross is a Breakout Session titled “Mythbusters – Fact or Fake News?” All Breakout Sessions provide a rounded perspective on a topic, and include multiple presenters from a single organization, across multiple organizations, or panel sessions specifically where the end users of tests and assessments are involved.

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What Goldilocks Can Teach Us About Charisma

yasin-hosgor-507334-unsplash (1)“This porridge is too hot!”

“This porridge is too cold.”

“Ahhh, this porridge is just right.”


At Hogan, we’ve been talking a lot about Humility lately. We’ve spent much less time talking about its antonym – Charisma. However, colleagues have used the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) to study charisma and recently published their findings in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. This post highlights their key findings, relates it to our own thinking about humility, and calls out some practical implications for coaching and leadership development.

In their paper, Jasmine Vergauwe, Bart Wille, Joeri Hofmans, Rob Kaiser, and Filip De Fruyt show that the HDS contains a “Charisma Cluster” of scales. Specifically, the Bold, Mischievous, Colorful, and Imaginative scales together form a measure of charisma that reflects a combination of confidence, risk-taking, social presence, and strong vision.

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Can You Handle Failure?*This article, authored by Ben Dattner and Robert Hogan, was originally published in Harvard Business Review in 2011. It has been republished in the HBR 2018 Summer Issue.  

In his brilliant 1950 film, Rashomon, the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa depicts the story of a rape and murder four times, from the perspectives of four characters. The message is clear: Different people can see the same events in dramatically different ways.

In the workplace this phenomenon is particularly evident when it comes to underperformance and failure. An outcome that an employee regards as satisfactory may be seen by his boss as entirely unacceptable. When a project is an unequivocal flop, colleagues disagree over the reasons why. These reactions, and their effect on workplace relationships, often become more problematic than the original event. As a result, how people respond to negative feedback is of great importance to managers and organizations and is a major determinant of career success.

Consider the case of a pharmaceutical company seeking FDA approval for a new use of an existing drug. (Some details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.) Wendy, a talented researcher, was put in charge of the large-scale data analysis required to file an appli Read More »

The Dark Side of Personality: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

bryan-fernandez-533491-unsplashEveryone around the world derails, or shows their dark side, at some point(s) in a career. That is, people from all walks of life inevitably demonstrate behaviors and reactions that end up getting in the way of leadership, relationships, and/or performance at one time or another. But why do self-aware, educated professionals who know their stress-induced conduct is counterproductive act in such ways across the globe?

Freud summed it up with his “life sucks, deal with [your neuroses]” perspective, postulating that the conditioning for our nerve wracked outlook starts from birth. You never see a newborn come out laughing, do you? It’s cold, it’s bright, it’s foreign; and Sigmund believed that experience sticks with you, leaving residual trauma lodged somewhere in your subconscious. And even if you don’t buy into his unproven hypotheses, think about that baby’s likely favorite word a couple of years later: “No”. Why do they say that all the time? They’re testing boundaries; they’re testing limits; they’re making sense of their world; and all the while, they’re being instructed how to act. Many times, these instructions counter their natural inclinations. They adapt and experiment with ways to get their way.

This two-year-old eventually grows and enters primary school. There she or he faces new authority figures (teachers), peers (classmates), and a more complex “society”. The child continues her or his attempts to resolve feelings of inadequacy caused by humiliation, injury, and other traumas. This continues to evolve in middle school, high school, and beyond. Every child gets injured, gets called on by the instructor when they don’t know the answer, has to face a bully in the schoolyard; not to mention the fears of rejection that crop up when one becomes a teenager.

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