Leadership and Psychometrics

A psychometrics instrument is a rigorously developed data gathering tool (eg, a questionnaire) that is designed to measure a person's personality. Each instrument is based upon an underlying personality theory.

Personality has been defined simply as “characteristic ways of behaving in certain situations”. Personality theories, therefore, are concerned with finding explanations for different people’s characteristic, or typical, ways of behaving.

Psychologists have developed two forms of theory to explain characteristic behaviour.

Type theories attempt to summarise a range of typical behaviours into a short list of types. These can be used for personal and team development but, because they can not predict how someone might behave in the future, should not be used in recruitment and selection. They are particularly useful for examining a person's leadership style.

The most popular type model today is probably that based upon Jung's work and measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Another very well known one is Belbin's Team Types.

Trait based theories explain typical behaviours by using a number of scales or traits. Rather than combining the traits into one type, the traits together form a profile. Trait based approaches are helpful for diagnostic or predictive purposes and can be used in assessment and selection scenarios. They are very useful for looking in depth at a person's approach to leadership and are often use in leadership Development Centres.

The best known instrument based on a trait model is possibly Cattell's 16PF and its various derivatives (eg, the OPQ, 15FQ+, etc).

Type theories have always proved popular with practical managers, salespeople, trainers and others who want simple tools that help them understand others and work with them more effectively. It is easier to remember and work with a few types than with an infinite combination of traits.

To qualify as a psychometric instrument (as opposed to the popular questionnaires you might find in a magazine), the developers have to submit the tool to extensive testing to establish its validity (does it measure what it claims to measure) and its reliability (does it consistently measure the same thing) on large samples of people representing a "population". The results of this and other work have to be published in a technical manual for use by trained users.

These instruments are open to abuse so publishers will only sell them to licensed users after they have undergone extensive training.

I did my basic psychometric training with Psytech International and always point interested people to them. They offer a combination of development of new instruments, training in their own and othe products and good quality administration and analysis / reporting software.

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