Want to Learn More About High Potentials? We've Got You Covered.

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Thu, Jan 12, 2017

Leading up to the launch of the Hogan High Potential Talent Report, our CEO, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, authored numerous articles addressing human potential and how to assess it. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, and others, here’s a comprehensive list of Tomas’s articles on the subject.

Fast Company -- Tapping the Potential of Your Company's Hidden Superstars

Summary: Despite all the talk about the war for talent, most organizations already have the supply of talent they need. The problem is, many employers are unable to either identify or engage those high-potential individuals.

Harvard Business Review -- Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You

Summary: Although there are no reasons to expect the fascination with strengths-based coaching to wane any time soon, organizations – and people – would be better off it did. This article outlines five reasons to be skeptical of a leadership development approach that focuses only on strengths.

Fast Company -- How to Get Your Employer to Finally Recognize Your Potential

Summary: It’s the job of every manager to size up their team members and evaluate their potential. That means understanding not just their current talents, but also their likelihood of developing them for higher-impact roles.

Management Today -- 5 Tips for Assessing Employee Potential

Summary: In an ideal world, your pipeline would be brimming with future high fliers, who will one day push your organization to new heights. Unfortunately, life’s rarely that kind. Here are five tips to help you find and develop your future stars.

Harvard Business Review -- What Science Tells Us About Leadership Potential    

Summary: Although the scientific study of leadership is well established, its key discoveries are unfamiliar to most people, including an alarmingly large proportion of those in charge of evaluating and selecting leaders.

Huffington Post -- Why Many Companies Are Failing to Unlock Their Future Leaders' Potential

Summary: It’s unsurprising that organizations devote an increasing amount of time and resources to the identification and development of future leaders. This explains the recent proliferation of interventions targeting HIPOs: the individuals who show the biggest promise for leading the organization in the future.

Forbes -- Four Things You Probably Didn't Know About High Potential Employees

Summary: There are four common mistakes organizations tend to make in their HIPO programs, namely mistaking performance for potential, and emergence for effectiveness; undermining the importance of development, and ignoring the dark side of personality.

Fast Company -- Three Reasons Why You Aren't Reaching Your Full Potential

Summary: “Inborn talent” is something of an oxymoron. Nobody is born with talent, as we typically understand the term, and we all differ in our potential to develop the skills and attributes that later lead others to call us talented. So why are some people better at developing their potential than others?

Fast Company -- What You Think Makes a Good Leader Probably Doesn't

Summary: We may think we know what qualities we value in those who lead us – and why – but companies and entire countries keep pushing less than stellar leaders into positions of power. How come? 

Fast Company -- The Often Overlooked Aspect of Getting Ahead at Work

Summary: Managing the tension between getting along and getting ahead is particularly important if you have leadership aspirations. Psychologist Robert Hogan defined leadership as “getting along to get ahead,” and he put forward a Darwinian framework for understanding why some people are more successful than others.

Fast Company -- How We Can See Past the Allure of Charismatic Leaders

Summary: A global survey evaluating everyday perceptions of leadership across 62 countries identified “charismatic” and “inspirational” as two of the most recurrent attributes linked to leadership. Yet there’s actually little evidence that charisma helps leaders be more effective. In fact, it often has the reverse effect.

Fast Company -- How to Turn Your Personality into You Career Advantage

Summary: With a bit of self-awareness – understanding how you differ from others and especially what others think of you – you can turn your personality from a heavy roadblock to a killer career weapon.

Harvard Business Review -- Talent Matters Even More than People Think

Summary: Clearly, some people are both talented and hard-working, but there is often a tension between the two. Talent can make people lazy because they need to rely less on hard work to achieve the same goal. Hard work helps people compensate for lower levels of talent, which is why it’s quite helpful to be aware of one’s limitations. But how much does talent really matter?

Management Today -- Do Nice Managers Finish Last?

Summary: In the corporate world, most organizations seem to have developed – involuntarily, of course – quite effective mechanisms for stopping nice employees from advancing to management positions.

Forbes -- Can Human Potential Be Measured? A Psychological View

Summary: The idea that science can be used to quantify our future performance is unpopular. The main reason is that it tastes of determinism and questions the strong lay conviction that we are completely free to decide our destiny, a conviction that is obviously irrational.

For more information about the Hogan High Potential Talent Report, visit hoganhipo.com.

Topics: high potential leaders, high potential, high potential employees, high potentials, high potential program

Hogan Releases High Potential Talent Report

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Jan 10, 2017


We’re excited to announce the launch of the Hogan High Potential (HIPO) Talent Report, a new product that simplifies the way organizations evaluate and develop talented people. The comprehensive report makes it easier to make informed talent decisions, groom and develop employee leadership competencies, and achieve positive business outcomes.

Most organizations make it a top priority to identify, develop and prepare successful leaders for roles with expanded scope and responsibility. However, organizations large and small have struggled to find an accurate, useful and sustainable way to develop the leaders with the highest potential for future success.

“One of the main reasons high potential programs fail is that they focus too much on performance, which organizations are historically poor at measuring,” says Hogan CEO Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. “And, even if organizations do measure performance well, many top performers will fail to perform well at the next level. So it’s important to focus less on performance, which is what you have done in the past, and more on potential, which is what you will probably do in the future.”

The Hogan model identifies and defines three elements that are important for HIPO success. The first, leadership foundation, describes the degree to which individuals are able to effectively manage their career, how rewarding they are to deal with, and how strong they are as organizational citizens. The second, leadership emergence, predicts the likelihood that someone will be noticed in the organization, emerge and be labeled as a leader. The third, leadership effectiveness, predicts one’s ability to lead teams successfully toward productive outcomes.

All three components of the Hogan HIPO model are strongly linked to personality. The new report identifies strengths and gaps related to each of these critical elements, and suggests specific, targeted developmental actions to address them.

“Potential is not solely based on the absolute value of your skills and abilities – it is powerfully influenced by the extent to which others perceive you as a leader,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. “Effective leaders are able to attract, retain and develop strong talent, achieve business goals, secure resources and remove barriers to success. This new report can accurately assess leadership potential at all levels regardless of the size and scope of the organization.”

For more information about the Hogan HIPO Talent Report, visit hoganhipo.com.


Topics: high potential leaders, high potential, high potential employees, high potential program

NEW BOOK: Coaching the Dark Side of Personality

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A Definitive Guide for Improving Leader PerformanceCoaching_Darkside_Book-1.jpeg

While the practice of strengths-based coaching remains popular in the global workplace, the new book Coaching the Dark Side of Personality sheds light on the toxic tendencies and behaviors that can derail the careers of today’s leaders.

The book, authored by Hogan’s Dr. Rodney Warrenfeltz and Trish Kellett, offers the most comprehensive compilation of expertise exploring the topics of personality and leadership today. In combining the power of Hogan’s science with more that two decades of coaching expertise, Coaching the Dark Side of Personality helps leaders uncover the characteristics responsible for inhibiting their performance and limiting their careers.

“This book directly addresses the elephant in the room, and really takes a deep dive into the dark-side behaviors of leaders across the globe,” says Warrenfeltz. “It’s time we stop solely coaching leaders to focus on their strengths, and start honing in on what’s standing in their way. This is the definitive guide to doing just that.”

Coaching the Dark Side of Personality provides readers with an advanced framework to establish a comprehensive model outlining the role of personality in leader performance, to describe the essentials of personality-based behavior change and to outline the coaching fundamentals that are necessary for success when working with leaders. In addition, the book offers coaching tips that have been proven to produce positive performance improvements.

“When we set out to write this book, our goal was to provide a practical leadership development guide for both executive coaches and those leaders they coach,” says Kellett. “By outlining detailed tips and techniques that have worked for professional coaches around the world, this book reveals our exclusive model to successful leadership development.”

Coaching the Dark Side of Personality is available for purchase at www.coachingthedarkside.com.  

Topics: dark side, dark side of personality

Hogan case study: The nice team that went nowhere

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Dec 27, 2016

Team performance depends on having a clear mission—a sense of purpose—and the right people to deliver it.

In the face of widespread and systematic safety failures, including worker deaths, a large organization created a new health and safety team and gave it power and autonomy to identify and fix the problems and policies that were putting their workers in danger. Six months into the mission, the team was meandering and hadn’t made any impact.

Although the mission was really clear, the team consisted of people who were powerfully driven by relationships but with no drive or ambition. They were genuine, friendly people who put a lot of effort into reaching out across the organization, but couldn’t deliver results.

People have two roles within a team: functional and psychological. Functional roles are determined by a person’s position or title—Chief Financial Officer, lead engineer, accountant, etc. Psychological roles are informal roles which people naturally gravitate to based on their personalities.

“When individuals are formed into a team with a designated task, there is an awkward phase in which everyone is searching for how he or she fits in—his or her psychological role,” said Dave Winsborough, VP of Innovation at Hogan X. “We found that there are five psychological roles to which people naturally gravitate: results, relationships, process, innovation, and pragmatism.”

For a team to function properly, its psychological roles have to be balanced. First, there has to be enough diversity among team members that each role is filled. This sounds simple enough, but people are naturally attracted to others who are like themselves, meaning self-formed teams are likely to be fairly homogenous. In this case, the team was heavy on people in the relationships role—concerned with keeping peace within the group and with outside stakeholders—with none in the results role, which focuses on clarifying goals, driving action, and holding team members accountable for their work.

Second, there have to be enough individuals in each role to provide critical mass. In other words, no single person can fill more than one role. Some roles may require the efforts of more than one person, so there have to be enough people to get the job done. When psychological roles are correctly balanced, the natural push and pull between the different roles creates healthy conflict that can help teams function.

In this instance, our advice to the CEO was changing the team’s membership, starting with putting someone in the results role — a stronger, more assertive leader. That was a tough call, and in light of the recent shift to install this group, one he was reluctant to take.

He persevered with the current membership for another 12 months, providing stronger and stronger direction for the team. But personality is hard to change. Two years later, there was another restructure, and the team that went nowhere was disbanded.

To find out more about how personality impacts team performance, check out our ebook, The Secret to Successful Teams: Conflict.

Topics: team

Three Talent Tech Tools to Help You with Your Career

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Dec 20, 2016

Contributed by Lewis Garrad on Mon, Dec 19, 2016

This article originally appeared at Sirota.com.

While so much media has been focused on how technology is going to automate jobs and replace us all with robots, much less attention is being given to the emerging Talent Tech industry.

In fact, there is a good argument that using technology to help us understand our talent and potential is really the most noble and humanitarian of causes; to help us find out how we can continue to learn, grow and stay relevant in the midst of substantial change.

Sirota has been studying people at work for more than 40 years and huge amounts of our research tell us that when we find a job that we believe in; one that stretches us and makes good use of our skills and abilities, we tend to be more motivated, committed and engaged – which works out well for everyone. In our most recent research with The Engagement Institute, we’ve found that each individual employee’s own approach to their career and their work makes a big difference too – leading to more effective job crafting and growth behaviours.

So with that context in mind, here are some tools that you can try out in the emerging TalentTech space. Most of these are in their earliest releases so it’s worth keeping an eye on how they develop.

  1. Mercer Match – Mercer have been one of the earliest movers in the Talent Tech space, releasing their game-ified career app last year. The technology allows the user to play various games on their mobile device and build a skills and talent profile which can be quickly matched with employer needs. Making use of your fragment time (sitting on the bus or in the bath), you can explore the various games and activities that will keep your brain occupied but also help you figure out your unique talent profile. Get more info about the app here: https://mercermatch.com/.
  2. Hogan-X – There are very few attributes as valuable as self awareness, and as the psychs at Hogan will tell you, “reputation is everything”. Hogan’s newest experimental tools are light and easy to use. Built to help us understand our strengths AND weaknesses at work, the ideas is that we can learn how to get along, while also getting ahead. You can explore feedback on various aspects of your personality and find out what motivates you. Most importantly though you can find out about your dark side – the biggest risks for career derailment. Check it out here: https://me.hogan-x.com/.
  3. Crystal Knows – You might not know this, but Crystal has been getting to know you. With the vast amount of public information about us online these days (think social media profiles and company websites), Crystal is scanning and aggregating your public online profiles to build a tool that helps others get to know (the online) you better and interact with you more effectively. The plug-in tools for LinkedIn, Gmail and other communications tools are particularly useful as they make specific suggestions about what language to use with someone and when. Check it out here: http://crystalknows.com/.

The idea behind these tools is that they empower individuals to take more ownership for their career and talent data. There are many other technology solutions emerging that are also helping companies understand talent in a more sophisticated way (e.g. digital interviews, unstructured data analytics, etc.) and together they are starting to reshape the career landscape.

Lewis Garrad focuses on growth markets for Mercer-Sirota, and has an extensive background in employee feedback and engagement. He has worked across a broad range of industries with companies such as Shell, Rolls-Royce, Skype, Solvay, Tullow Oil, National Grid, Westfield, Royal Ahold, and TNT. Chartered by the British Psychological Society as an Occupational Psychologist, Lewis graduated from the University of Nottingham with an MSc in Occupational Psychology and a First Class Honours BSc in Psychology & Cognitive Neuroscience.



Topics: hogan X

Q&A: Know Your Crew

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Wed, Nov 30, 2016

KYC.pngIn August, Know Your Crew and Hogan X formed a partnership to advance and revolutionize team building. In combining Know Your Crew’s platform that improves team dynamics with Hogan’s decades of research and team analytics, both organizations aim to maximize their strengths to improve the global workforce.

Still in the product development stage of the new partnership, we caught up with Know Your Crew co-founder and CEO Alison Bloom-Feshbach and Dave Winsborough, the head of Hogan X, for latest news on the partnership and what the future holds for team building.

Q: Since the announcement of the partnership in Summer 2016, how have things progressed from a product development standpoint?

Dave: Know Your Crew and Hogan X developed a short version of our personality tools that is being coded on the Know Your Crew platform right now. When released, it will provide individual team members with a snapshot of how they show up at work and in teams.

Alison: Integrating Hogan’s personality tools into Know Your Crew makes the product an even more powerful driver of strong team dynamics; the goal is to make personality insights easily digestible and quickly actionable. For example, we’re working on an algorithm that will pair personality data with Know Your Crew data to serve up personalized tips to help improve interactions with teammates.

Q: Because of the steady rise of remote teams in the workforce, how can Know Your Crew and Hogan X differentiate from the competition in the team building space?

Alison: Know Your Crew does more than help teams build relationships! Our analytics measure team fitness: how well teammates know each other and how easy it is for them to step into each other’s shoes. We also make it easy for managers to understand the team experience – and take action to improve it.

Dave: That’s easy – there is no one doing what Know Your Crew is! They are truly the world leaders at automated team building. Companies who want to improve team dynamics and performance at scale should use Know Your Crew.

Q: Both Know Your Crew and Hogan X bring different strengths to the table. Can you discuss the mutual benefits each company offers the other?

Alison: Know Your Crew uses gamification to increase awareness of individual and shared preferences, habits, and needs. Understanding the interaction between different personalities is critical to making sense of team relationships – and Hogan’s team personality analytics offer a uniquely rigorous framework for predicting how teams operate at their best and at their most stressed.

Dave: We built the Hogan Team Report to identify the team strengths and weakness in terms of five roles that determine effectiveness: results, relationships, processes, ideas, and pragmatics. Plus, it shows the extent to which team member values match and predicts the issues team members may face with each other. Integrated into the Know Your Crew platform, that’s a powerful tool.

Q: Many HR and talent management experts say that effective leaders are able to build and maintain a high-performing team. In your experience, how have leaders embraced that philosophy?

Alison: The best leaders are obsessed with the individuals who make up their teams. They energize and excite their people and it’s contagious! When leaders show genuine interest in connecting with and engaging their teams, teammates are compelled to do the same. Unfortunately, many young managers lack the tools and training to model this type of behavior.

Dave: It’s a fail from the X perspective. Too few leaders grasp that their role is to help the team be successful, not do the job themselves. Too frequently they are out of touch with the team’s condition, and we can absolutely help that.

Q: From a historical perspective, teams have played a huge role in shaping society. Can you elaborate as to why that’s the case?

Dave: Simple. Humans evolved as group living animals. Cooperation at the level of a family, a tribe, or a band of warriors helped that group compete against predators, the environment, or even other tribes. Working effectively together is the adaptation that catapulted humanity’s progress forward. In the modern world of sports or business, nothing has changed – we need to cooperate in teams to achieve and win.

Alison: There are numerous studies to back that up! People who have strong social connections live longer, happier lives. And of course this is true in the workplace as well. There’s a good reason why seed-stage venture capitalists say the founding team is even more important than the product!

Q: What does the future of team building look like to you?

Alison: It looks data-driven – and reaches across time zones, languages, and cultures.

Dave: A lot like Know Your Crew.


Topics: hogan X

Hogan case study: The case of the colorful leadership team

Posted by Dave Winsborough on Tue, Nov 29, 2016

When the GeneBank (fictional company) board of directors demanded its new CEO double the global supplier of dairy and beef genetics’ revenue to $1 billion, the first thing he did was develop a new executive team.

This was a dramatic shift, and required new skills in acquisition, global marketing, data science, and logistics. The team would also have to lead a deeply skeptical, science-based organization into a future with much higher expectations.

The new team was goal driven, competitive, and ambitious. The organization felt as if it had received a huge shot of energy. Targets were increased, standards were raised, and individuals held accountable (and non-performers exited). The team was exciting to be around and made strong efforts to connect with each other and the wider organization

At the same time, three other behaviors emerged that caused frustration and resentment. Although driven and focused, the team didn't listen well to the rest of the organization, spending its time in broadcast mode. Secondly, goals stacked on goals as they emerged from the long, tough meetings of the top team, and little attention paid to sequencing or resourcing. Finally, the team was distractible, and the strategy began to accumulate pet projects.

This case study is a perfect example of a team with strong shared derailers. Derailers, or dark-side personality characteristics, are traits that under normal circumstances could be considered strengths—being ambitious, competitive, or outgoing, for example. Under increased stress or pressure, however, those same qualities can turn into behaviors that strain relationships and cause interpersonal rifts that can hinder team performance.

If too many members of the team share the same derailers, they can become team derailers. In this case, the executive team had a distinctive, shared dark side risk of being colorful - the tendency to be dramatic, attention-seeking, and easily bored.

Understanding the team’s shared derailers will help you understand how conflict is likely to play out, and help you guard against team-killing behaviors. To learn more about managing shared derailers and how personality affects team performance, download our ebook, The Secret to Successful Teams: Conflict.

Topics: teams

The MVPI Turns One Million

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Thu, Nov 10, 2016

An individual’s values and preferences hold important implications for vocational success, satisfaction, and person-organization fit. Recognizing this fact, Hogan was the first to assess motives and interests in an organizational context, launching the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI) in 1996. Two years later, we were the first test publisher to develop a web-based assessment platform. After we fully integrated the system to score MVPI results for personnel selection and employee development in 2001, our online platform became the most popular way to complete the MVPI. The assessment is available in over 40 languages worldwide and recently hit a new milestone. In September 2016 we administered the one millionth MVPI assessment on our core platform. Put another way, we’ve administered the MVPI using just this one platform to more people than the entire population of Dallas, Texas.

Looking Back

As the popularity of the Internet and the success of our online business grew, so did MVPI usage. In 2001 we used our platform to administer the MVPI about 550 times. By contrast, in 2015 that number was over 127,000. It took us over 6 years to administer the MVPI to 100,000 people, but since 2013 we’ve done at least that many each year and every year without exception the numbers have grown.


Looking Ahead

2016 usage to date (September 29, 2016) suggests we will continue to surpass marks set in previous years. At the current rate of growth, we should cross the 2 million mark sometime during the fall of 2020. Furthermore, with the advent of Hogan X and our ever-growing list of clients, partners, and global distributors, we plan to hit that number even sooner.

The Bottom Line

The MVPI remains a global leader in assessing core values and motives in normal working adults. Organizations recognize this fact as evidenced by continuous demand for the MVPI over the last 15 years despite national and international economic market conditions. More importantly, the demand for this assessment has only increased over that time, and existing data suggest that those trends will continue in the coming years. When global organizations want to hire people who fit with their organizational culture, develop talented employees, build great leaders, and impact the bottom line, they ask for the MVPI.

Topics: MVPI

Why do companies still struggle with self-directed work teams in 2016?

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

For those unfamiliar with the concept of self-directed work teams, it’s a shift away from a typical top-down organizational structure, where one or a group of leaders set strategic direction and comes up with solutions to problems, then delegate tasks. In lieu of a traditional organizational structure, many companies are flattening their hierarchies and decentralizing power, making every employee a “stakeholder” with ownership in the company and the ability to work whenever and however he or she sees fit. These companies rely on small, self-managing teams tasked with solving specific problems.

Although SDWTs have been around for decades, they’ve been made famous in recent years by companies like Valve, the software and gaming company that produced the landmark “Half Life” series of first-person shooter games, and Zappos, which lost 14% of its workforce to a voluntary buyout during the final phases of its transformation to full-blown self-management last year.

And it’s not only cutting-edge companies who are ditching traditional hierarchies in favor of a team-based structure. Deloitte’s “Global Human Capital Trends Report 2016”, which reports the findings from a survey of more than 7,000 business leaders in 130 countries, showed more than 80% of respondents were either currently restructuring their organization or had recently completed the process to place more emphasis on teams. SDWTs have become so en vogue that even some of the most staunchly conservative organizations are getting in on the trend—The Cleveland Clinic recently reorganized its medical staff into teams focused on particular treatment areas, and General Stanley McChrystal described in his book Team of Teams how the army’s hierarchy hindered operations early in Iraq.

But as many organizations are finding out, the promise of SDWTs is often met with crushing disappointment and organizational turmoil as teams succumb to apathy, indecision, infighting, or any number of other dysfunctions and organizational goals go unmet.

“I have no question that when you have a team, the possibility exists that it will generate magic, producing something extraordinary, a collective creation of previously unimagined quality or beauty,” the late J. Richard Hackman said in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. “But don’t count on it. Research consistently shows that teams underperform, despite all the extra resources they have.”

Why do SDWTs so rarely live up to their promise? One of the answers is in the way teams are organized.

Functional versus psychological roles

People have two roles within a team: functional and psychological. Functional roles are determined by a person’s position, title, or hard skills. If I were assembling a team to launch a new web app, for instance, it would make sense to have members who were skilled in design, web development, and user experience, as well as a manager whose job it was to make decisions, set priorities, delegate tasks, and report progress up the chain.

Psychological roles are informal roles which people naturally gravitate to based on their personalities. When individuals are formed into a team and given a task, there are five psychological roles to which people naturally gravitate: results, relationships, process, innovation, and pragmatism.

  • Results is the natural leader of the group whose function is to communicate the team’s vision, organize work, evaluate outcomes and hold team members accountable for their contributions.
  • Relationships is more concerned with maintaining concord and cooperation within the team.
  • Innovation is critical for coming up with out-of-the-box, creative solutions to problems.
  • Pragmatism is practical and can be argumentative. He or she promotes realistic approaches to problems.
  • Process is concerned with implementation, and tends to be reliable and organized, and careful to follow rules.

A team with the right balance of people in results, relationships, innovation, process, and pragmatism roles will ensure diversity of viewpoints and work well together.

Organizations like Zappos and Valve are able to create high-performing teams because they allow employees to move fluidly between teams until they find one for which both their functional roles and psychological roles are a natural fit. The problem most traditional organizations is management organizes SDWTs based on members’ functional roles, which means the team’s psychological roles are typically out of balance.

This insight leaves large organizations wishing to implement SDWTs with two options: (1) allow employees to spend time moving from project to project until they find a team on which they naturally fit, or (2) use a tool like the Hogan Team Report to identify gaps and and balance teams’ psychological roles.

To learn more about how balancing psychological roles can help boost team performance, check out our latest ebook, The Secret to Successful Teams: Conflict.

Topics: teams, teamwork

The Dark-Side of Personality: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Posted by Michael Sanger on Thu, Oct 20, 2016

Everyone around the world derails, or shows their dark side, at some point 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.
All of a sudden, sometime during our early twenties—boom—one’s personality, and the associated inclinations, becomes far more concrete. All of those behaviors we’ve been experimenting with to either get our way or resolve feelings of inadequacy become unconscious go-to tools in our repertoire of reactions.
Executives are nothing but messed up grown ups dealing with the same psychological issues they’ve been harboring their whole lives. And just like their parents, teachers, and bullies in the schoolyards, their bosses, peers, and subordinates (as well as the stress of the job itself) can make them feel inadequate and emotionally insecure. Thus an almost uncontrollable reaction emerges. So why do they act this way? Partly habit, and partly because it’s worked for them in some way in the past...
There are three broad categories of responses from which individuals tend to choose during times of stress. The first two are well known: Fight (confrontation) versus flight (distancing). But what is less talked about is becoming the bully’s friend or embracing the stress (acquiescence, or false compliance). Freud considered these reactions hysteria, anxiety, and obsessive compulsion. Famed psychoanalyst Karen Horney classified them into moving against, moving away or moving toward behaviors.  
Research has shown that leaders’ communication style and ways of demonstrating drive are influenced by the geographical region in which they operate. In the same vein, some cultures tolerate certain derailing characteristics in their managerial ranks more than others. Depending on the context, one’s dark-side tendencies may be a taboo weakness or, in contrast, may somehow avoid violating existing collective understanding of how an acceptable leader should act.
For example, when organizations emphasize rank, emerging leaders tend to develop unique coping skills. It is a leader’s job to implement mandates from above with lower-level employees. If overused, this strength can lead to a kiss up/kick down leadership style, characterized by excessive deference or sudden attention to detail when reporting up, and issuing fiery directives or refusing to compromise when commanding subordinates. This behavior set is tolerated more in certain countries, such as Turkey, India, Serbia, Greece, Kenya, and Mainland China, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Leaders from organizations operating in these locations tend to be diligent and dutiful with their bosses but intense and dominating with their reports. Although this behavior set is not demonstrated to such extremes by organizational leaders from countries like the US, UK and Australia, these same tendencies are found to be the least interfering with success across jobs in these locations.
In other parts of the world, it is more acceptable for leaders to become cynical or even covertly resistant under stress. These reactions usually occur when the individual is forced to pursue an objective or carry out a task without being won over or in the absence of sound rationale. Leaders with this style are more widely accepted in New Zealand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, where it doesn’t seem to impede their advancement.
Thus, it is imperative to study what country or regionally specific dark-side tendencies are more-or-less tolerated during promotion to executive positions. These data inform us on a country’s leadership emergence factors and clue us in to what the working population admires, sees as distasteful, and/or seeks to emulate. Furthermore, understanding the cultural differences will help stakeholders ask the right questions and make the right decision. Dark-side behaviors don’t always become obvious until the person is in a new, complex and stressful situation. Assessing early can help you identify these tendencies before making a promotion decision.

Topics: cultural differences

Subscribe to our Blog