For some reason, the view leaders have of themselves is often inflated compared with what their teams have to say and what their results show.
Over the past few weeks, we have asked nearly 600 leaders to think of the best leaders for whom they have worked - and most struggled to answer.
Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the greatest leader of them all?
Just as the evil queen in Snow White gazed into the mirror, expecting it to recite her name, many leaders look into the mirror expecting to see an image of greatness. But mirrors reflect reality.
For leaders, theemployees are the mirrors. And when workers have been asked about how effective their leaders are, their responses have shocked most leaders.
Leaders rate themselves, on average, 12 percentage points higher than those who work for them do.
It is dangerous and misleading for managers and leaders to have a misconception about their work in leading. No matter what leaders think of themselves, their followers see and know the real story - to the extent that their engagement and performance are influenced by it.
To find out how effective you are as a leader, stop relying on press clippings, selective memories, that one rare or legendary story and the flattery of employees. Instead, have a clear definition of what management or leadership effectiveness is and continually measure against that standard.
Here is one approach that can help to measure leadership effectiveness:
1. Rate your effectiveness (daily).
To do this, create a statement that describes each of the areas that you want to assess. You can rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 on the following items:
Performance: I do a good job of responsibly delivering results through others.
People Management: I do a good job at developing others' abilities for success.
Work Management: I do a good job at making appropriate work assignments, setting clear expectations and priorities, monitoring progress and giving feedback.
Inspiration: I motivate the people who work for me to perform at their best.
Trust:Those I supervise directly trust me to keep my commitments.
2. Describe your effectiveness (weekly).
This is a powerful exercise that forces you to state an example of how you lived out each of the five parts of management or leadership effectiveness. At the end of each week, look back and restate an example, or a story, that illustrates your being an effective leader.
3. Validate your effectiveness (monthly).
For many leaders and managers, this is the most difficult and threatening part of assessing leadership effectiveness, as it makes the assessment public. To validate your effectiveness, talk to five people, among them employees you supervise, your peers - and your boss. Ask them to rate your effectiveness according to criteria in point Number 1, and encourage them to qualify their rating by sharing examples that illustrate the quality of your leadership. If possible, change some of the assessors from month to month.
4. Once you complete the self-assessment, ask yourself what you need do to improve in each area.
It is one thing to rate effectiveness, but the best of leaders work to improve. Leadership is like any art or skill: it improves only with practice.
Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging-market leadership, the author of The CEO Shift and the managing director of the Emerging Market Leadership Center