“Leadership is not a function of title, turf, or position.” So says Rick Inatome, who has devoted most of his career to building organizations with performance optimizing cultures and mentoring persons to become 360-degree leaders (i.e., persons who can positively influence others with higher, equal, and lower organizational rank).

Business Leader Rick Inatome Explains: The “Secret Sauce” for 360-Degree Leadership
Alena Darmel

Inatome observes that there is plenty of literature telling readers what makes a 360- degree leader. Research on the subject has become widespread and training has become a cottage industry. But, as Inatome notes, personal and organizational returns on investment often fall short of expectations as the impact of such programs tends to have a short shelf life.

Inatome maintains that there are some simple reasons for this outcome. He recalls being excited listening to people like Jim Collins speak about taking an organization from good to great and Patrick Lencioni describing how to build powerful teams. Reflecting upon why good intentions typically fail to achieve sustainable results, Inatome concluded that “failure was both a leadership and a process problem.”

“Leaders who are unable to see their authentic selves,” Inatome says, “cannot create an environment in which 360-degree leadership flourishes. Personal humility and transparency, acknowledging one’s own shortcomings and mistakes, and blaming oneself first are critical leadership traits,” Inatome says. Unless coupled with good process, however, they cannot ensure sustainability of an environment conducive to 360-degree leadership.

With this understanding, Inatome worked to create a process that has proven successful in developing 360-degree leaders and embedding performance optimizing cultures. Building upon the adage that “what gets measured gets done,” he worked with his teams to structure a 360-degree evaluation process that measures an individual’s leadership qualities as they relate to superiors, peers, and subordinates.

Inatome says it was important to “give this process teeth,” so subjects are force ranked, results are made the basis for salary increases, and any person finishing at the bottom two years in a row is asked to leave the organization.

Using this process, leadership is measured by asking just 25 questions. The quality of “Personal Awareness,” for instance, is assessed by asking questions such as whether a person “openly acknowledges mistakes and shortcomings without rationalizing failures.” “Decision-Making” is rated, among other factors,” based upon whether the individual “gains the trust and support of peers by modeling personal transparency.”

“Team Orientation” includes assessing “active listening” and whether an individual “effectively coaches or inspires the team to achieve optimal results.” “Authenticity” is evaluated based upon whether an individual “demonstrates the ability to recognize and improve self-limiting behaviors” and “takes risks with people by sharing vulnerabilities and candid self-assessment.”

The process not surprisingly has been validated by high employee engagement scores and continuous improvement of evaluates. It also reflects Inatome’s conviction that “direct, honest, and specific feedback is a gift.”

Even for the top-ranked employee who will receive the largest raise, Inatome says, “the most important gift is how the process enables persons to achieve an alignment between self-perception and external perceptions.” Inatome adds “the organization can be happy riding the residual of that.”

About Rick Inatome

Rick Inatome is a transformative business leader whose legacy includes being an architect of the digital age.  Working with other pioneers such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, he established a disruptive technology distribution channel that introduced the personal computer first to the general public and then to corporate America.  Inatome is among a select group of tech giants in the Computer Hall of Fame and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine.  He has founded and managed various private equity funds, served on numerous boards, and is in demand as a consultant, mentor, and public speaker.