Sink or Swim: Maximizing the Impact of 360° Feedback in Leader Development
Ellison, Leah Joyce
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Leader development initiatives prescribed as isolated events often fall short of their intended outcomes (Avolio, Reichard, Hannah, Walumbwa, & Chan, 2009). Initiatives should instead be enacted as part of an ongoing developmental process that encourages continuous learning and self-improvement through an “integrated set of experiences” (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004). The current study proposes that a combination of factors throughout this continuous process, both external to and within leaders, significantly impact the outcomes following a 360° feedback leader development program (360 LDP). External factors such as a leader’s feedback environment and perceived quality of coaching relationship with his or her boss are proposed to better prepare leaders for the 360 LDP (Gregory & Levy, 2011; Steelman, Levy, & Snell, 2004). Leaders who perceive high quality feedback environments and coaching relationships get more out of these programs as they are accustomed to high-quality constructive feedback and are expected to be more effective at internalizing feedback and using this information for performance improvement. During the 360 LDP, individual differences, such as feedback orientation, self-awareness, and learning agility, enable leaders to more effectively learn from the 360 LDP, resulting in greater instances of behavioral change (Ashley & Reiter-Palmon, 2012; De Meuse, Dai, & Hallenbeck, 2010; Linderbaum & Levy, 2010). These internal attributes act as tools that leaders rely on to process and then apply the large quantities of feedback received through these types of programs. Results suggest a significant interaction between feedback environment and self-awareness, where favorable feedback environments combined with high levels of self-awareness lead to the highest perceived improvement in 360 LDP outcomes. Separately, favorable feedback environments, high-quality coaching relationships, feedback orientation, self-awareness, and learning agility directly and positively impact perceptions of improvement in leadership effectiveness outcomes.