Proof PointWhat’s Smarter than IQ?Learning Agility. It’s No.1 – above intelligence andeducation – in predicting leadership success.by Kenneth P. De MeuseThe concept: You may have heard of the Peter Principle. It has beenLearning agility is the willingness around for more than 50 years. It asserts thatand ability to learn from experi-ence and apply those lessons to employees will continue to get promoted until theyperform well in new and challeng- reach their highest level of incompetence. Today’sing situations. workplace has ushered in a new principle; one that isUsed to: much more insidious. I call it the Paul Principle. TheIdentify high-potentials and Paul Principle states that employees don’t need to getspecify development plans for promoted to become incompetent. They will becomeup-and-coming leaders. Also canbe used to assess external candi- incompetent in their current jobs if they don’t grow,dates for leadership positions. adapt, and evolve.Measured with: This is why learning agility is the They see unique patterns and makeviaEDGE™, a new psychometri- most important quality to look for fresh connections that otherscally developed self-assessment. in a business leader today. Certainly overlook. all jobs are becoming more complex,Important because: more ambiguous and more Learning agility is a vital indicatorIt’s the leading predictor of technologically demanding, but it is of high potential talent. A 2011success in leadership roles. It is even more true for organizational Korn/Ferry study of sales managersalso somewhat rare: it’s estimated leaders. Unless managers and bears this out: The higher anthat only about 15 percent of the executives continue to learn new individual’s learning agility, theworkforce is highly learning agile. competencies and behaviors, they more promotions he or she receivedLearning agility also provides risk going the way of inkwells, during a 10-year period.developmental due diligence by 8-tracks, and typewriters.identifying and supporting the Similarly, longitudinal studiesdevelopment of high potentials. In a nutshell, learning agility is the conducted at AT&T, Sears, and Pepsi willingness and ability to learn from observed that managers who experience and then apply those modified their behaviors, exhibited lessons to succeed in new situations. flexibility, and accepted mistakes as Leaders who are learning agile part of learning new competencies continuously seek new challenges, were more successful than their solicit direct feedback, self-reflect, counterparts as they climbed the and get jobs done resourcefully. corporate ladder. The most rigorous
research was conducted at the Five factors of learning agilityCenter for Creative Leadership andsummarized in a book aptly titled, Korn/Ferry’s new self- Y PEOP assessment viaEDGE™ ILIT LELessons of Experience. After AG A > People agility — skilled provides scores on: AL communicator who can G NTinterviewing roughly 200 IL work with diverse types ME ITYexecutives, the authors discovered > Mental agility — ability of people LEARNING SELF-AWAR to examine problems in ILITYthat the most successful executives > Change agility — likes unique and unusual ways AGILITY to experiment and E AGwere able to move out of their > Self-Awareness comfortable with change — extent to which an NGcomfort zone, take risks, learn from > Results agility — delivers EN SS HA individual knows his or C E RE results in challengingmistakes, and begin anew as they her true strengths and SULT I TY S AGIL first-time situationsencountered new assignments. weaknessesTheir technical and functionalexpertise, which were valued at can be very useful, they need to A common concern about self-lower levels, gave way to building meet many conditions. For example, assessments is their accuracy. Whatteams, inspiring confidence, and the raters must work from a prevents people from simplydeveloping strategic goals. Bottom- common frame of reference, so inflating their scores? viaEDGE™line: the successful leaders harsh or lenient ratings give way to has several verification scalescontinually learned, bent, and realistic (accurate) ones. When embedded to confirm the scoresflexed as their work world changed. several employees are evaluated at are accurate. In addition, there isIn other words, they were learning once, rater fatigue can become a an indicator to evaluate the extentagile. factor. A multi-rater approach to which an individual unduly likewise does not work for hiring presents a socially desirable image.This is why learning agility has external job candidates; one can’t Overall, it provides a calibrated,become the No. 1 predictor of really ask the current employer to scientifically derived measure ofleadership success today, more provide ratings so that another an individual’s learning agility.accurate than IQ, EQ (emotional company can make a good hiringintelligence), education level, or decision. Learning agility is the cornerstoneeven leadership competencies. of effective leadership today. To address such concerns Korn/ Identifying and developing thoseObjectively identifying managers Ferry has recently developed leaders who possess it is the bestwith high levels of learning agility viaEDGE™, a self-assessment that way for organizations of any sizehas tremendous value for measures learning agility from a to optimize their talent pipeline.organizations. Before putting time, multi-dimensional perspective. In Talent decisions are too importantenergy, and money into developing addition to one’s overall learning to be based on gut feelings oran executive, an organization can agility, five different facets are chance.confirm if he or she truly is the assessed: (a) mental agility, (b) About the Authorright investment. They can also people agility, (c) change agility, (d) Kenneth P. De Meuse is the vice president foravoid an egregious mistake in results agility, and (e) self- global research at Korn/Ferry International awareness. Such a multi-pronged Leadership and Talent Consulting. He hasoverlooking a nondescript employee published five books and multiple journalwho really is a high potential approach enables organizations to articles on leadership development and talent not only identify the most highly management. He received his doctorate intalent. industrial/organizational psychology at the agile individuals, but to diagnose University of Tennessee.Most learning agility assessments agility weaknesses and find appropriate developmental About Korn Ferry Internationaluse multiple people—supervisors, Visit www.kornferry.com for more informationpeers, direct reports—to rate each opportunities. on the Korn/Ferry International family of companies, and www.kornferryinstitute.comindividual after seeing him or her for thought leadership, intellectual propertyin action. Although such measures and research.