Using Assessment Tools to Develop Leaders

Magnifying glass

What is your purpose for the assessment and how will you use the results?

By Robbie Leonard, PT, DPT*

Health care organizations are notorious for placing the best clinician in a leadership role without a thorough understanding of the person’s ability to lead and perform in that role.

Organizations that don’t have a plan for identifying and coaching leaders rarely realize the full potential of their leadership team.

Leadership assessment is the process of identifying and describing a person’s skill set as it relates to leading and directing others and how their skills fit into their leadership role. It gives the individual the ability to understand their own strengths and weaknesses as they relate to leadership and provides the organization tools for coaching and developing future leaders.

There are a multitude of assessments that can provide good insight into your team’s abilities to lead, engage, manage, and work together. The key to using any of these assessments in your business is to first determine your purpose for the assessment and how you will use the results. An assessment without a plan for improvement is just like a patient evaluation with no goals. Here are three of the most commonly utilized assessment categories and examples of assessment tools.

Strength Assessments

One of the most popular assessment categories is strengths. The CliftonStrengths 34 Assessment is the most commonly used business tool for assessing a person’s strengths.1 This tool can be used with all employees regardless of their role, and it is an easy tool to utilize in coaching and developing your staff. The assessment identifies a person’s unique strengths in 34 different categories and provides insight on how to build on the strengths of the individual to help them grow and develop. This assessment tool is supported by a 40-year collection of data and has been utilized by more than 20 million people. That is a lot of data!

The CliftonStrengths 34 Assessment is easy to take, is not extremely costly, and there are multiple resources provided by the Gallup team to assist managers in using the tool effectively. This assessment can identify the unique talents of your team, assist in developing those talents, and ensure that you understand the talents your team possesses. In order to utilize this tool effectively, you should commit to the time that it takes to learn how to implement and decide how this assessment will be used in your business.

Emotional Intelligence Assessments

The second area of assessment that you may want to consider is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions, to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships, and to manage your own and others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence includes five components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy for others, and social skills such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. There has been a multitude of research and nonresearch articles written on the subject, and many believe that emotional intelligence is the key element that distinguishes good leaders from poor leaders.2 It may explain why sometimes the person with the highest IQ on your team may not make the best leader.

There is a good deal of research published on the correlation between high emotional intelligence and the ability to lead and engage others. An assessment of emotional intelligence might be the right tool if your purpose includes any of the following: improving staff engagement, determining an individual’s ability to lead or be placed in a leadership role, or assessing your existing leaders’ abilities to motivate and inspire others.

There are several emotional intelligence assessments that are available. In a Harvard University professional development blog on assessing emotional intelligence, they list four tools that businesses can utilize.3 Each of the tools has a different number of questions and strengths. Three of the four tools are free. The Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0 (EQ-I 2.0) is one of the most commonly utilized tools to assess emotional intelligence. The administration of this tool requires certification and has a higher cost, but it is extensive in its evaluation.4

Team Dynamics

If your purpose for performing leadership assessment is to improve your team’s ability to work together, one of the more traditional personality assessments might be the best assessment to use. Most of us have completed a personality assessment (such as the Myers-Briggs personality inventory), but you might find those traditional tests difficult to utilize in your practice. Many newer tools are more specific to the workplace. The Everything DiSC Workplace assessment is a tool worth investigating if your purpose is to bring your team together and build more productive and effective relationships at work.5 The assessment provides insight into individuals’ behaviors, their natural tendencies, and their challenges when interacting with others. That insight then provides strategies to improve interpersonal interactions in the workplace. This tool can also provide you with a view of your team’s DiSC maps as well as a group culture report. That information can demonstrate how your specific culture impacts your group members and the influence it has on their decision making and risk taking.

Another free tool to assist in team building and relationships that can be fun is the Smalley Animal Personality Course.6 It was created by Dr. Gary Smalley and is an online assessment of personality that places individuals into one of four groups called: Lion, Otter, Beaver, and Golden Retriever. While most people can’t quote their Myers-Briggs personality type, most people can remember which animal they are after taking the Smalley Animal Personality Course. This test provides valuable insight into the members of your team and their dominant personality traits. It can assist a team in understanding each other’s unique approach to life and how that impacts their interactions with others.

If any of these purposes has resonated with you, and you want to take the next step in utilizing leadership assessment tools, consider these action items.


1CliftonStrengths 34. Accessed April 2019.

2Owens A. How emotional intelligence became a key leadership skill. Harvard Business Review. April 28, 2015. Accessed April 2019.

3Harvard University, Harvard Extension School, Professional Development, Blog. Assessing your emotional intelligence: 4 tools we love. Accessed April 2019.

4Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0. Accessed April 2019.

5Everything DiSC Workplace. Accessed April 2019.

6Smalley Animal Personality Course. Accessed April 2019.

Robbie Leonard, PT, DPT, is a former practice owner who specializes in revenue cycle management, compliance, and leadership training. She currently works as a consultant with several private practice clinics. Robbie can be reached at

*This author has a professional affiliation with this subject.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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