Leaders and executives within a company are generally responsible for evaluating employees, but they too need to be evaluated by someone who can determine their effectiveness as leaders. Methods for evaluating senior, or top-level, leadership vary from one organization to the next. These methods generally differ from the basic evaluation methods employed by managers to determine the effectiveness of general employees. Senior leaders are generally held to a higher standard due to their greater level of responsibility.
Whether you are choosing an executive leader for your organization or evaluating one whom you currently employ, the criteria by which you judge the senior leader is key to assessing his suitability for the job. Companies should use a specific skill set to define the qualities needed for each leadership position. Choosing these qualities should not be an arbitrary practice though. Instead, leadership positions that are properly defined according to the specific needs of the company and the objectives it hopes to accomplish will be easier to evaluate than those that are defined with broad, generic skill sets.
Metrics are often used in business and manufacturing to assess the quality of an organization's methods and practices. An organization can use various metrics to assess the quality of its senior leadership. Senior leaders are hired to accomplish specific objectives and provide broad leadership as well. The specific objectives can be measured in terms of improvement from one assessment period to the next. Organizations do have to walk a fine line, however, by balancing between statistical and formulaic methods of evaluation and those at are more discretionary in nature. For instance, an executive board may decide to let go of an executive because the members want to go a different direction, even though the executive has measured up in terms of quantifiable accomplishments.
Feedback is an essential part of the evaluation of senior leadership. Berkeley Developmental Resources recommends that organizations evaluate senior leadership using a multisource feedback system. Rather than just providing an annual review by one person, organizations can rely upon feedback from employees and other executives within the organization to get a more comprehensive view of the senior leader's performance. The use of multiple sources of feedback has to be carried out carefully, though, because of the potential for others within the organization to seek revenge against a leader whom they don't like or want to have fired.
Organizations have to be careful to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of the evaluation process when dealing with senior leaders. For instance, using metrics alone as a source of evaluation is problematic unless accompanied by a corresponding narrative. Turning the evaluation process into a popularity test based on the subjective opinions is another pitfall. An evaluation is not truly an evaluation when senior leaders are given the rubber stamp of approval. Standards do need to be codified, however, so that organizations can avoid the danger of turning the evaluation process into a political forum as well.
Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.