ASK THE OD PARTNERS: Questions from Real Leaders Essentials

Reflections and Thoughts by Dr. Peter Cheng
Co-Founder and Chief of Dialogue

Delegates from 20 organisations participated in a panel discussion at our Real Leaders Essentials event on 21 July 2017, with our founders Dr. Lily Cheng and Dr. Peter Cheng, as well as Mr. Jagadish C.V., CEO of SSMC, and Ms. Chong Siak Ching, CEO of National Gallery as panelists. It was a highly meaningful and engaging time of sharing, and there were more questions than the panel was able to address during the discussion! Dr. Peter Cheng shares his insights on the remaining questions posed to the panel here.

Please share your organisation’s or your personal experience introducing 360° feedback for your leaders. How did you manage the concern about the impact on morale of the leaders?

Doing a 360° does not necessarily lead to low morale. In fact, 360° feedback is a great platform for leaders to discover their areas of strength and areas where they can develop to become better leaders. Most organisations only invest 360° feedback assessments in their highpotential employees. Hence, when one is selected to participate in a 360° assessment, one should be very thankful to be chosen among the few to be developed.

I think the key question to address here is: how do we administer the 360° feedback assessment in such a way that it does not cause leaders to be demotivated? A skilful 360° feedback facilitator will and must know the intricacies of helping participants of the 360° feedback to interpret the report from a development-perspective and not an appraisal-perspective. Often times, 360° feedback participants adopt a witch-hunt approach to analysing their report, especially when there are areas of improvement to be made. They misconstrue their feedback for development to be areas of weakness and as a personal attack, or even feel like they are being appraised or assessed. The key to helping these participants appreciate the feedback is to have them focus on the message of the feedback for development, and not to witch-hunt for who “attacks” or “assesses” them.

When the subjects of 360° feedback are left on their own to interpret their results, they tend to skew towards the being-appraised mentality. A skilful facilitator should be able to help these subjects embrace the feedback positively and embark on a developmental plan that will make them even better or greater leaders. To conclude, having a 360° feedback exercise does not lead to low morale; it is the ineffective administration of the feedback exercise and the interpretation that lead to the low morale.


From a more junior position, how can I/we drive Real Leadership in the workplace?

Leadership is not about position. It is about having the passion to lead. Hence, whether you are junior or senior, the 8 Essentials of Real Leadership are accessible to all and by all. To begin with, get yourself familiarised with the 8 Essentials of Real Leadership. Obtain feedback about other’s perceptions of you against the backdrop of Real Leadership behaviours. Be sure to consciously role model these behaviours through your actions. Do be reminded that leadership development is a work-in-progress. Hence, the first step to begin with is to discover the who-ness of you as a leader that involves addressing issues of character, conviction with courage, and credibility as a leader — regardless of your position. It is also important to look into the what-ness, which comprises of competence, creating an inclusive environment, and compassion. Finally, it is important to also champion and live out corporate values before addressing performance issues.

With theories of leadership changing, how long will authentic leadership last?

First and foremost, authenticity is here to stay. The foundation of effective leadership is building trusting relationships with the constituents, who would willingly subscribe to the leader’s behavioural influence. Since trust is universally a precursor to a sustainable relationship, authentic leadership will not fizzle out with time. When people experience authentic leadership, they trust their authentic leaders to lead them and are inspired to accomplish common goals with their leaders. In light of any emerging leadership theories, authentic leadership is here to stay.

How does one infuse Real Leadership principles in a public listed company with a three-year contract CEO where his main KPI is to increase shareholder value (with a focus on increasing revenue of EBITDA/results)?

Adopting Real Leadership behaviours does not promise instant achievement of EBITDA. Real Leadership is not a magical pill. On the contrary, leadership development is a journey of deliberate intentions to exhibit Real Leaders’ behaviours, which have through our research, shown to engage, inspire, and transform people. For organisations to deliver results, they need to continually be led by effective leadership who is trusted by the people and inspired to do the extraordinary. Since leadership development is a work-in-progress, expecting instantaneous results would not be realistic. Organisations have to be willing to put in place a system or a programme to develop their leaders to inspire their people to deliver the desired outcomes.

Three years is neither long nor short. We believe it is sufficient to turnaround an unfavourable company situation to a favourable one, from loss-making to profit-making. Hence, it is highly possible that within a three-year time span, a CEO who is willing to embrace Real Leadership with his minus-ones, is well-positioned to move the company towards achieving its desired outcomes, all things being equal. Whether it is a three or five-year period, the constituents must be engaged and inspired to co-labour with their leaders. Without willing people, a performance based CEO is unlikely to sustain the desired outcomes. In fact, the CEO might lose his/her key talents who are instrumental in achieving the company’s desired outcomes.

Want more insight on leadership development through the use of 360° Feedback? Dr. Peter Cheng is hosting a discussion over tea on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 from 3-5pm for HROD & L&D professionals and C-Suite leaders. We welcome one representative per organisation to join us for this Reali-Tea Exchange session. Email us at to register your interest!