Insights

What Direct Reports Want From Their Leaders

Direct reports have expectations of their leaders to create change

What sort of leadership do direct reports expect of their direct managers?

To answer this question, we studied the data of 8,489 direct reports gathered from our Leadership Assessment. Direct reports were asked to evaluate their direct managers (based on a 7-point Likert scale) and were also asked which leadership qualities they expected from their direct managers. The assessment consisted of 53 question items categorized into 8 different leadership qualities:

  • Compelling messages
  • Directional clarity
  • Self-discipline
  • Accountability
  • Delivering on tasks
  • Change resilience
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Promoting development of others

So among these leadership qualities, which ones did direct managers demonstrate and direct reports were satisfied with? On the other hand, which items did direct managers not demonstrate enough and direct reports expected them to do more?

In graph 1 below, we can see the direct reports’ evaluation of their direct managers’ leadership (left y-axis) and leadership qualities the direct reports expect from their direct managers (right y-axis).

Research conducted by Coaching Research Institute, 2015

First, let us look at the direct reports’ evaluation of their direct managers’ leadership (left y-axis). For the purpose of this study, we have defined the average score of the direct reports’ evaluation at 5.5. We looked at each of the 8 leadership qualities and determined that “interpersonal communication”, “compelling messages”, “accountability”, “self-discipline” and “delivering on tasks” were higher than average, while “promoting development of others” and “directional clarity” were lower than average.

Now, if we take a look at the direct reports’ expectation of their direct managers (right y-axis). We can see that “change resilience”, “promoting development of others” and “directional clarity” had a high percentage, while “accountability”, “self-discipline” and “delivering on tasks” had a lower percentage.

We also noticed interesting patterns looking at the two variables on the graph.

  • “Accountability”, “Self-discipline” and “Delivering on tasks”: direct managers demonstrated these qualities and direct reports were satisfied.
  • “Development of others” and “Directional clarity”: direct managers did not demonstrate enough of these qualities and direct reports also expected them to do more.
  • “Change resilience”: direct reports have high expectations whether the direct managers are doing it or not

Taking a deeper look at what is going on here, let’s first start with Group C (the purple bars). The direct reports evaluated their direct managers with a higher than average score on “accountability”, “self-discipline” and “delivering on tasks”. We can also see that only 16-22% of the direct reports chose these as the leadership qualities they expect from their direct managers. We can say that the direct reports are fairly satisfied with their direct managers in these aspects.

Next, let’s look at Group B (the blue bars). The direct reports evaluated their direct managers with a lower than average score on “development of others” and “directional clarity”. We can also see that about 50% of the direct reports chose these two as the leadership qualities they expect from their direct managers. Looking at these two factors, we can say that “development of others” and “directional clarity” are two of the leadership qualities in which direct managers are not doing enough and at the same time, direct reports also expect them to do more of.

Lastly, let’s look at Group A (the orange bar). The direct reports gave an average score of 5.5 points for “change resilience”. 57% of the direct reports chose this as the leadership quality they expect from their direct manager - in fact, this had the highest percentage among the eight leadership qualities. This means that direct reports have a high expectation towards it whether the direct managers are doing it or not.

This may be a reflection of the direct reports’ desire for change in a fast-paced market environment and that they have expectations of their leaders to create that change. We hope that this study helped you in looking at some indicators for leadership and how executive and managers can meet the expectations of the members of the organization.

Research overview

No. of Samples:
1,096 / People working with participants: 13,806
Survey period:
November 2012 - March 2015
Survey method:
Web-based survey was conducted after the coaching engagement was completed
Survey tool:
Leadership Assessment (LA) ("Leadership" and "Workplace Climate" categories)
Direct reports' evaluation of their direct manager's leadership (8 categories, 53 questions, 7-point scoring scale)
Direct reports' expectations of their direct manager's leadership(selected 3 out of the 8 items) 
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