Can 360 Surveys Help in Leadership Development?

Jonathan Passmore
Feb 28 2024 | Observaciones
Two men having a discussion during a leadership coaching session.

Leadership development questionnaires come in many forms, from personality surveys like Hogan to specialist questionnaires which explore emotional intelligence or resilience (1). But possibly the most helpful are 180 and 360-degree behavioural questionnaires. These focus on the behaviours the survey respondents observe, offering valuable opportunities to gather feedback from line managers, peers and team members, as well as to reflect on the key behaviours needed for good leadership.

Understanding different types of development surveys

  • General personality questionnaire: Data collected from the individual (self-report)

  • Special purpose questionnaires: Data usually collected from the individual (self-report)

  • Behavioural (competency) questionnaire: Data collected from the individual (self-report)

  • Behavioural 180-degree questionnaire: Data collected from the individual, plus the manager

  • Behavioural 360-degree questionnaire: Data collected from the individual, plus the manager, peers, direct reports and stakeholders

Self-reports are the most basic type of questionnaire, these rely on what the respondent says about themselves. The advantage of behavioral questionnaires over personality ones is that they’re what people see, and are related to performance.

The next step up is the 180 competency questionnaire. These combine self-report information with manager feedback. The 360-degree feedback questionnaire is designed to provide individuals with feedback on their leadership behaviour as perceived by a range of other individuals, including their line manager, peers, direct reports, and wider key stakeholders. For this reason, they provide an excellent platform to use for personal development and a useful tool to combine with coaching.

Completing a questionnaire and reading the feedback does not lead to change or improved performance. In fact, evidence suggests that for many people, feedback delivered in this way can be demotivating or confusing and can lead to a decline in performance (2). This happens for several different reasons. Firstly, individuals often become confused as to how to make sense of the different scores they receive, compared with their own rating. Secondly, they wonder if their scores are low, what they need to do differently, particularly if they are already trying their best.

From our experience, direct reports often provide the most helpful feedback. This is because they most regularly see the individual and have the clearest evidence of their behaviour. Additionally, direct reports suffer less from bias or social desirability effects, as their scores are anonymous and therefore more accurate than the manager or self-report.

The helpful feedback test

  1. Is the feedback technically accurate?

  2. Is the feedback provided by a trusted partner in the process?

  3. Is the feedback understood and accepted by the individual?

  4. Is the feedback a helpful starting point for planning (reflection)?

  5. Is the feedback connected to a development journey with opportunity for reflection, planning and implementing new actions?

Coaching sessions can play a useful part in overcoming challenges related to feedback reception and action. The coach can help the individual unpack the data to understand the value of the feedback, asking questions such as – with non-anonymised data – who knows them best, and who do they work with most closely?

The answers may vary between different competencies, as the direct report may be able to comment on their ability to show empathy but may be less able to comment on their networking skills. The coach can also help the person to reflect on evidence: when did you behave like this? What informed your actions? What impact did it have? How could you achieve a different outcome? Finally, the coach can support the individual as they explore different ways of behaving, helping them plan how they can develop these skills and how and when they might deploy them.

360 behavioural questionnaires like EZRA Measure can amplify the value of coaching and provide a platform for leadership performance improvement. They also allow individuals to track their performance and show how they have developed, providing evidence of growth and development.


(1) Passmore, J (ed.), (2016) Psychometrics in Coaching: Using Psychological and Psychometric Tools for Development (2nd ed.). London: Kogan Page.

(2) Smither, J.W., London, M., Flautt, R., Vargas, Y., and Kucine, I. (2003). Can working with an executive coach improve multisource feedback ratings over time? A quasi-experimental field study. Personnel Psychology 56: 23–44.

Jonathan Passmore is SVP EZRA and Professor of coaching and behavioural change at Henley Business School, UK

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