Feedback is central to leadership development. It is the key to leaders' self-insight. Without feedback, leaders would be in the dark about the effects of their decisions and actions on their organizations and their relationships. Feedback stems from a number of sources. Some feedback comes from objective data: information about finances (reports of expenses and revenues), human resources (data on employee turnover, numbers attending various training courses, salary surveys in the labor market outside the firm), and business processes (error rates, projects completed on time, inventory). Other feedback comes from subjective data: comments or ratings from one's supervisor, subordinates, peers, customers, and/or suppliers.
Leaders are sensitive to performance feedback because of its tie, and potential threat, to their self-identity. Chapter 2, this volume, reviewed insight formation processes, and suggested that leaders, especially those with positive self-images, are likely to discount negative information. On the one hand, some negative information should indeed be ignored or attributed to external factors. On the other hand, to ignore or discount unfavorable feedback may miss the opportunity for change that could have positive benefits for the leader and the organization.
This chapter covers the basic elements of feedback processes that apply to most everyone, including leaders. These elements need to be taken into account in developing support mechanisms for leadership development. This foundation is necessary to fully understand the leadership development support mechanisms, in particular, feedback surveys and coaching, described in the next two chapters. This chapter begins with a primer on the value of feedback, explaining why it works and what can be done to maximize its benefit. The way people respond to feedback, particularly in relation to its sign (positive or negative) is tied to self-regulation processes. Methods are discussed for making feed