On the ethics of psychometric instruments used in leadership development programmes

Suze Wilson, Jackie Ford, Nancy Harding, Hugh Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


The leadership development industry regularly claims to aid in developing effective, ethical leaders, using 360-degree psychometric assessments as key tools for so doing. This paper analyses the effects of such tools on those subjected to and subjectivised by them from a Foucauldian perspective. We argue that instead of encouraging ethical leadership such instruments inculcate practices and belief systems that perpetuate falsehoods, misrepresentations and inequalities. ‘Followers’ are presumed compliant, malleable beings needing leaders to determine what is in their interests. Such techniques pursue productivity and profitability, rather than ethical leadership. We examine the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ), a widely used 360-degree tool that measures transformational leadership, as an illustrative case study to substantiate these criticisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211–227
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Early online date29 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


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