Research Support

Based on 20+ years of peer-reviewed studies informed by applications with executives

40,000+ leaders

around the world assessed

Versatility is Rare

But it can be developed

Most leaders are not versatile

They over-rely on their strengths and neglect opposing but complementary behaviors and skills

Versatility can be learned

Personality plays a role, but career experiences, feedback, training and development play an even greater role.

As the world has
gotten more VUCA, versatility matters more …And more

Proportion of Executive Effectiveness Due to Versatility

Today’s most effective leaders are the most versatile leaders. Tomorrow, they’ll have an even greater impact.

When we began studying versatility in the 1990s, it statistically accounted for about a third of what it means to be an effective leader. After the global financial crisis of 2008, it accounted for about half. During the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, versatility accounted for almost two thirds of leader effectiveness. At a moment when everything changed, all of a sudden, versatile leaders helped their teams and organizations regroup, refocus, and continue to produce. Leaders who lacked versatility saw their teams get overwhelmed and fall behind.

As the next normal emerges, disruption and sudden jolts will continue to shape our world. And versatile leaders will be best equipped to effectively read and respond to those unexpected changes.

Versatile Leaders Enhance Engagement, Agility, and Results

by a wide margin

How Versatile Leadership Improves Culture & Results

Different behaviors drive different levers for performance

Research Review

More than 20 years of peer-reviewed publications


Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at May be Your Biggest Problem

Kaplan, R. E., & Kaiser, R.B. (2013); San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Press; (Available in English, Danish, Dutch, Polish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese)

Versatilní Vedení: Dynamická Rovnováha Manažerských Dovedností (Versatile Management: A Dynamic Balance of Management Skills.)

Pavlica, K., Jarošová, E., & Kaiser, R.B.; Prague, Czech Republic: Management Press (Available in Czech) (2010)

The Perils of Accentuating the Positive

Kaiser, R.B.; Tulsa, OK: Hogan Press (Available in English, Romanian) (2009)

The Versatile Leader: Make the Most of Your Strengths—Without Overdoing It

Kaplan, R.E., & Kaiser, R.B.. San Francisco: Pfeiffer/Jossey-Bass (Available in English, Polish, Korean) (2006)

Forceful Leadership and Enabling Leadership: You Can do Both

Kaplan, R.E.; Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership (1996)

Popular Articles

Demanding leadership has its downside. It also just saved the world.

Kaiser, R. B.; Talent Quarterly online (2020, Dec)

Are your leaders ready for the “next normal”?

Kaiser, R. B.; Talent Quarterly online (2020, Sept)

The best leaders are versatile

Kaiser, R. B.; Harvard Business Review online (2020, March)

Strengths can become weaknesses

Kaiser, R.B., & Kaplan, R.E.; Talent Management Magazine, 9(9), 14 (2013, Sept)

What gets lost in finding your strengths

Kaplan, R.E., & Kaiser, R.B.; Leadership Excellence, 30(5), 17 (2013, May)

Too good to be true: Are strengths really all leaders need?

Kaiser, R.B.; Chief Learning Officer, 8(3), 58 (2009)

Stop overdoing your strengths.

Kaplan, R.E., & Kaiser, R. B.; Harvard Business Review, 87(2), 100-103 (2009)

Adjusting your leadership volume

Kaplan, B., & Kaiser, R.; Leader to Leader, 43, 13-18 (2007)

Developing versatile leadership

Kaplan, R E., & Kaiser, R.B.; MIT Sloan Management Review, 44(4), 19-26; Voted runner-up for Article of the Year by MIT/PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2003)

Know your strengths

Kaplan, R.E.; Harvard Business Review, 80, 20-21 (2002, March)

Research Articles


Leading in an unprecedented global crisis: The heightened importance of versatility.

Kaiser, R. B.;Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 72, 135-154 (2020)

Gender bias and substantive differences in ratings of leadership behavior: Toward a new narrative

Kaiser, R. B., & Wallace, W. T.; Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 68, 72-98 (2016)

Versatility of organizational management and its relations to corporate culture

Pavlica, K., Jarošová, E., & Kaiser, R.B.; Organizacija, 46, 186-195 (2013)

The how and the what of leadership

Kaiser, R. B., McGinnis, J. L., & Overfield, D. V.; Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 64, 119–135 (Runner-up for the Elliott Jaques Memorial Publication Award for article of the year) (2012)

When strengths run amok

Kaiser, R.B. &, Kaplan, R.E.; In R.B. Kaiser (ed.); The Perils of Accentuating the Positive (pp. 57-76); Tulsa, OK: Hogan Press (2009)

Versatile Leadership and the Use of Business Process Methodologies in the Biotechnology- Pharmaceutical Industry

Kadri, M.; Ann Arbor, Michigan: Dissertation Information Service, University Microfilms International (2009)

Assessing the flexibility of managers: A comparison of methods

Kaiser, R.B., Lindberg, J.T., & Craig, S.B.; International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 16, 40-55 (2007)

Faculty Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment with Industry-University Research Centers

Coberly, B.M.; Ann Arbor, Michigan: Dissertation Information Service, University Microfilms International (2004)

Leadership effectiveness hangs in the balance

Kaiser, R.B. & Kaplan, R.E.; Leadership in Action, 21(1), 12-13 (2001)

Behavior & Assessment Model

A method for capturing context in the assessment of leaders: The “too little/too much” rating scale

Vergauwe, J., Kaiser, R. B., Wille, B., De Fruyt, F., & Hofmans, J.; Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 11, 657-662 (2018)

Versatilitet - Fremtidens ledelse i en VUCA-verden. (Versatility - Leadership of the Future in a VUCA World.)

Grøn, R. T., Sørensen, N. H., & Kaiser, R. B.; Erhvervspsykologi (Business Psychology), 15(4) (2017)

The "too little/too much" scale: A new rating format for detecting curvilinear effects.

Vergauwe, J., Wille, B., Hofmans, J., Kaiser, R. B., & De Fruyt, F.; Organizational Research Methods, 20, 518-544 (2017)

Developing flexible and adaptive leaders for an age of uncertainty [Special Issue]

Kaiser, R.B. (Ed.); Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 62(2) (2010)

Assessing flexible leadership as a mastery of opposites

Kaiser, R.B., & Overfield, D. V.; Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 62, 105–118 (2010)

Are all scales created equal? Response format and the validity of managerial ratings

Kaiser, R.B., & Kaplan, R.E.; Paper in B.C. Hayes (Chair); The Four "R’s" of 360° Feedback: Second Generation Research on Determinants of Its Effectiveness, symposium presented at the 21st Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Dallas, TX (2006, April)

Overlooking overkill? Beyond the 1-to-5 rating scale

Kaiser, R.B., & Kaplan, R.E.; Human Resources Planning, 28(3), 7-11 (2005)

On the folly of linear rating scales for a non-linear world

Kaiser, R.B., & Kaplan, R.E.; In S. Reddy (Ed.), Performance Appraisals: A Critical View (Ch. 12, pp. 170-197). Nagarjuna Hills, Hyderabad, India: ICFAI University Press. (2005)

Rethinking a classic distinction in leadership: Implications for the assessment and development of executives

Kaplan, R.E., & Kaiser, R.B.; Consulting Psychology Journal: Research and Practice, 55, 15-25 (2003)

Development Model

Developing managers for a digitalized industry

Pavlica, K., Matoušková, I., & Kaiser, R. B.; Paper presented at The 11th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation Proceedings, Seville, Spain, Nov. 12-14 (pp. 4525-4531). IATED Academy: Valencia, Spain (2018)

Versatile leadership, LVI, and their application at Škoda Auto a.s.

Pavlica, K., Kaiser, R.B., & Jarošová, E.; Chinese Business Review, 10, 1181-1190 (2011)

Towards a positive psychology for leaders

Kaplan, R.E., & Kaiser, R.B.; In A.P. Linley, S. Harrington, & N. Page (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work (pp. 107-117). New York: Oxford University Press (2010)

The deeper work of executive development

Kaiser, R.B., & Kaplan, R.E.; Academy of Management Learning and Education, 5, 463-483 (2006)

Lopsidedness in leaders: Strategies for assessing it and correcting it.

Kaplan, R.E., & Kaiser, R.B.; In R.J. Burke and C.L. Cooper (Eds.), Inspiring Leaders (pp. 293-304). London: Routledge (2006)

LVI & Personality

Integrating personality assessment with 360 feedback in leadership development and coaching

Kaiser, R. B., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T.(2019); In Allan Church, David Bracken, John Fleenor, & Dale Rose (Eds.), Handbook of Strategic 360 Feedback, Oxford Press

The double-edged sword of leader charisma: Understanding the curvilinear relationship between charismatic personality and leader effectiveness.

Vergauwe, J., Wille, B., Hofmans, J., Kaiser, R. B., & De Fruyt, F.; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114, 110-130 (2018)

The dark side of personality and extreme leader behavior

Kaiser, R.B., LeBreton, J.M., & Hogan, J.; Applied Psychology: An International Review, 64, 55–92; (2015)

Personality, leader behavior, and overdoing it

Kaiser, R.B., & Hogan, J. ; Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63, 219-242 (2011)

Strengths, strengths overused, and lopsided leadership

Kaiser, R.B., & Overfield, D.V.; Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63, 89-109 (2011)

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