by V. S. Ravi Elangkoh

Review word - man with magnifying glassHere’s a challenge to leaders out there – do you dare to subject yourself to a 360 review by your staff? You might be surprised at the results!

From the best-paid or most senior leader to the youngest or most junior leader, there’s always room for improvement for everyone. Leaders, especially CEOs, are the most in need of personal development simply because more is expected and required of them. But do you really know which areas you need improvement in?

Because of our blind spots, we leaders have the tendency to rate our performance better than how our people would rate us. Now if we’re not aware of our shortcomings in the first place, how then are we to even begin improving ourselves?

A June 2014 report of a survey that was sponsored by Domo and conducted by yielded some interesting insights. It was polled on 1,594 respondents across various industries comprising nearly 468 CEOs, 351 executives and more than 775 general employees of companies with a workforce exceeding 50 people each, to investigate the gap between CEOs’ perceptions about their own selves and their staff’s perceptions about them. The survey covered the areas of motivation, communication, compensation and priorities. In this article, let us get an overview of the areas where the gaps in perception were most significant.

Perception Gaps between CEOs and Executives

Gap between leader and followersGap #1: Degree of Caring

What 39% of CEOs claim: I care about the success and welfare of individual employees.

Survey result: Only 19% of executives agree with what their bosses claim.

Gap #2: Recognition and Reward

What 42% of CEOs claim: I recognize and reward achievements.

Survey result: Only 17% of executives agree that their bosses do so.

Gap #3: Ideas and Input

What 31% CEOs claim: I seek ideas and input from employees at all levels.

Survey result: Only 14% of executives agree with their bosses’ claim.

Gap #4: Reprimanding Others

What 84% of CEOs claim: I never use company meetings to reprimand employees.

Survey result: 39% of executives and 32% of general employees say that it happens sometimes.

Gap #5: Fear as a Motivator

What 10% of CEOs claim: I use fear as the number one motivational tool.

Survey result: Many executives rank fear as the number one motivational tool of their CEOs.

This could explain why 46% of executives report that they need to massage data to make it look better before submitting it to their CEOs.

Gap #6: Compensation

What 39% of CEOs claim: I make less than my fair share of pay/compensation.

Survey result: Only 7% of executives agree.

Gap #7: Transparency and Sharing

CEOs: I rank “transparency and information sharing” low on my list of priorities.

Survey result: Most general employees think this should be their CEO’s top priority.

[Note: The scope of this article does not permit us to discuss each of the seven gaps in detail, so we shall discuss them separately in future articles.]

The findings of this survey are in line with what I’ve discovered in my 20-plus years of hands-on experience in the training, development and coaching of leaders. It is a timely reminder that leadership isn’t just another title or assignment. On the other hand, leadership is very intimately linked to who you really are: your attitudes, skills, knowledge, values, behaviour, actions, character, paradigm, etc. – a concept that relates to what I call authentic leadership, which would be a recurring theme in many of Invictus Leader’s articles.

Caveat: How do we know that what others perceive is actually true or reliable? Could it be possible that the CEOs are right about themselves – after all, they know themselves best – while the other employees have gotten it wrong because they don’t really know the true reasons and intentions behind what they (mis)construe to be a “negative” action or behaviour of their CEOs?

Granted this might be true for some of the actions of the CEO, but surely not all of his actions. Executives and other employees who have worked closely with their CEOs would be in a better position to assess their CEOs’ actions or behaviour, compared with those who have only briefly worked with their CEOs or interacted with them from afar. Hence, dismissing employees’ perceptions as erroneous should not become an excuse for you to avoid introspection and self-improvement. Instead, ask yourself again whether there might be some truth behind such perception gaps.

Nevertheless, gaps in perception will always persist among us because we come from diverse backgrounds in terms of upbringing, education, culture, exposure and environment. The wise CEO will endeavour to close the gap of discontent and ensure there is greater congruence between perception and reality – where the reality is positive, so should the perception. Of course, any negative reality should be duly remedied so that the corresponding perception would turn from negative to positive. Such fine-tuning between reality and perception will prevent inner discord while instilling greater harmony among all who work together in the corporation.

What are your thoughts? Do share them with us at

Photo Credits

Image 1 courtesy of Stuart Miles

Image 2 courtesy of Renjith Krishnan