When I ask search committees for competencies or qualities they feel are critical in their next hire I always hear people express the need for a good leader. The problem for me is identifying what leadership means as a group so when my client starts selecting a candidate everyone is on the same sheet of music.
“I know it when I see it.”
“Leaders are the people who others want to follow.”
These are a couple of simple explanations I get but trying to figure it out from the interview can be a confusing assignment.
There has been an incredible amount of research related to leadership and well-documented historical work that looks at past behavior, tying an individual’s leadership capabilities to their success. There is no way in this article that I can completely explain “leadership” as a competency in the hiring process but I thought I’d share a few thoughts for your consideration:
- Leaders come in all kinds of shapes and sizes as well as styles. Some are vocal and have big performative needs and others enjoy remaining in the background pulling the right strings at the right time. Bottom line – don’t be fooled by initial impressions…dig deeper.
- It’s always difficult to predict the future but you may find answers you are seeking if you look at the past to see if someone has been a leader before or desires to be in a leadership role. The number one indicator of future success is still past performance.
- Every company has particular needs depending upon where the company is in their evolution. Look closely at where your company is today and where your plans are taking you. Decide which leadership qualities are most important. Also, look closely at your candidates to see which leadership qualities the candidates used in past roles based on where the company’s needs at the time.
- People often confuse management capabilities with leadership competencies. A leader typically employs an approach that encompasses the short-term and the long-term view to identify the most important outcomes the company must achieve. A good manager on the other hand puts the people, processes and accountabilities in place to accomplish the outcomes a leader wants to achieve.
- If I had to pick one competency that separates good managers from leaders it is visioning. Leaders must have the ability to identify the long-term strategic goals as well complemented by the ability to solve difficult problems through careful and systematic evaluation of the information, possible alternatives and consequences.
- Leaders need to know when to delegate and when a decision is theirs to make. When a leader delegates, choosing the appropriate people to carry out the goal is imperative. The leader must push as much responsibility and authority down in the organization as possible but never forget about holding people accountable.
- In today’s world, everything is changing so quickly that a leader must be able to take action to support and implement change to keep up with the pace.
- Once there is communication to everyone in the company on the direction the company is going, the leader must be the driver for results, changing and pushing the organization and themselves to excel and achieve.
- Leaders need to be more than just politically aware, they have to have organizational savvy, recognizing and understanding organizational politics and working within organizational dynamics to accomplish objectives.
- Some people would say nothing else matters if the person on top cannot be trusted and I would agree. It is imperative that the leader has integrity and upholds a high standard of fairness and ethics in everyday words and actions.
- A leader can be shy but must still have the ability to make effective presentations and be able to communicate in writing. A well-told story goes a long way in convincing people to get on board.
Leaders are special people who must have the courage of their convictions and yet are flexible, adaptable and open to alternative solutions when interacting with others. Leaders need to have the ability to understand the attitudes, needs, interests and perspectives of others and balance those perspectives with their own experience, education and knowledge.
Written by Dan Portes, President/CEO
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