Hiring the Right Leaders

Getting the right people on the bus is arguably an organization’s greatest challenge.  And when that role is a leadership role, the stakes are that much higher.  All the more important to implement a disciplined selection process, grounded in a clear understanding of the position and what qualities will be required to achieve success.   Start by preparing an ideal candidate profile considering questions such as these:

  • Does the role require a leader who is a big picture thinker or someone who can drill down into the details?
  • Does the position need a leader who supervises fairly closely, or, someone with a more empowering style, who tells people what needs to be done, but lets them decide how?  (The ‘right’ answer here will likely depend upon the skill level of existing staff.)
  • What kind of people skills will be required?  Will this person need to be on the front-line, interacting with a variety of people developing new business or building profile?
  • Will they need to rally the troops and motivate them? Or, is a more detached style as appropriate, for example, to lead a team of experienced professionals?
  • Do you need someone tough-minded, to deal with underperforming employees or, someone more nurturing who can build the courage and confidence of a young team?
  • How much pressure does the job entail? How fast is the pace, how complex the problems, how demanding the culture?

Be aware that it’s rare to find a candidate who ‘has it all’ and that strengths on one side (e.g. strategic thinking) are generally accompanied by limitations on the other (detail orientation).  Look carefully at the nature of the leader’s challenge and tailor your criteria accordingly.

Answering these questions is a great starting point. From here, you can design an interview (s) to address these criteria. The key is to use behavioural questions to elicit concrete examples of the candidate demonstrating the required quality. For example, “Tell me about a time when you turned around a demoralized team?  Then listen carefully for direct evidence through real world examples.  One trick…listen for ‘I’ statements and past tense verbs, not vague descriptions of what “you should” do in these situations.

Interviews are essential, but they may not tell the entire story.  Today, more and more organizations are adding assessment as an additional step in the process.   More on how assessments can support the good selection ( and promotion) decisions in my next article.

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