The leadership index described on this page has been used to measure and improve leadership behavior effectiveness in several organizations.  It is patterned after one that is used at Federal Express for the same purpose.  It can be used in any organization, including small businesses, health care, and education.  Eleven statements are included in the example shown below, but this number can be changed, along with the content (leadership expectations) themselves.

What is the Leadership Index?

The Leadership Index is makes up 11 statements in an employee attitude survey. Such a survey, which is typically given annually, would be completed by all of the people who report to a given leader, regardless of that leader’s level in the organization.   An explanation of how the resultant leadership index is calculated and used to improve individual performance is provided below the table of eleven statements and possible responses.

Example Leadership Index

How is the Leadership Index Calculated?

In the above example, red letters indicate the response that an employee provided when the survey was completed.  The objective of good leadership in this model is to obtain a SA (strongly agree) or A (agree) response for all eleven statements.  To obtain such responses, the leadership expectation must be practiced on a consistent basis.  In other words, an AD (sometimes agree / sometimes disagree) response is considered negative when the index is calculated.  The raw data will distinguish this type of response from the D (disagree) or SD (strongly disagree) responses, but the index will not.

In the example, 7 of the 11 statements have a positive (SA or A) response.  This calculates into a leadership index of 64%.  In the FedEx model, a minimum index of 75 is allowed.  This index hurdle requires that at least 75% of the workgroup share the same positive perception.  It also recognizes that there will be some people who will select a negative response irregardless of the efforts that a leader makes.When a person in a formal leadership role scores lower than 75 on an annual or semi-annual survey, they are placed on “probation” and must enter into a formal leadership improvement program.  Should the score fail to rise above the 75% level on the next survey, the supervisor or manager is removed from the formal leadership role (though they still remain employed with the organization).

What Types of Action are Needed to Help Improve Index Scores?

In my experience, I have not found it necessary to actually demote someone who failed to obtain at least a minimum leadership index of 75 or better. In at least 90% of the over 200 cases where I have personally used this index, simply providing the leader with (1) survey feedback, (2) clear performance expectations, (3) a clear, specific plan for improvement, and (4) support for making those improvements was enough to drive personal change. In the remainder of the cases, the poor performing leaders chose to take a different assignment on their own, as they recognized that they were not willing to live up to the ‘new’ expectations that had been defined.

This process of course can be modified by either changing the minimum percentage and/or changing the length of the probationary period.  The keys are that (1) there are consequences for failing to improve, (2) a formal leadership improvement process is made available, and (3) regular performance feedback is provided during the time between the formal surveys.

How Can the Leadership Index be Customized?

The number of statements, and the statements themselves, can also be changed. Ideally, the mission, vision, and value statements that have been defined by the organization serve as sources for the statements that are used in the Leadership Index. The index can also be used to gauge the degree to which each leader is supporting major improvement initiatives (such as six sigma or lean manufacturing) or key organizational strategies.

All associates who report to the leader participate in the survey process.  Immediately following the release of the survey results to the leader, he or she is expected to review these results with their associates and work with their people to develop an action plan for improvement.  Headhunting (trying to find out WHO gave them a negative response) is discouraged, as is sharing scores without the consent of the leader. It is often necessary to provide an outside facilitator to assist with conducting these feedback meetings.

Would You Like to Learn More?

Great Systems! can help you design and improve your leadership measurement and development system in three ways – system assessment, one day design workshop, and development workshop facilitation. If you are interested in learning more about these services, please send Kevin McManus an e-mail at or give him a call at 206.226.8913. Keep improving!