Choosing The Leader (Tips From The Leaders)

The interviews are done. It’s time to choose the leader.  It’s an opportunity you can’t squander.

Competencies and skills? Check! You know the list. You have compared the candidates and considered their relevant experience and the proof-points of their mettle. You have also considered how they would fit in the organisation, their styles, motivations, preferred behaviours.

You know your business very well.  You are immersed in the vision and you know intuitively what’s required. But as in all things in life, you cannot predict with precision what the future may bring. You have a feeling that you need a different set of selection parameters. How can you assure that the future leader will be able to adapt to the rapid pace of change and the growing complexity of business?

In addition to competencies, skills and organisation fit, here are two more things you need to consider: (1) Potential and (2) Authenticity.

How can you assure that the future leader will be able to adapt to the rapid pace of change and the growing complexity of business?

Look For Potential

In the June 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review article titled “21st Century Talent Spotting“, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz wrote that to future-proof your choice, you also need to look at potential – the potential to learn new competencies, to adapt to new realities, to grow into the evolving role.

He recounted his experience of searching for a CEO for a family-owned electronics retailer. He found the candidate. But that person was asked to leave after three years because, in spite of his credentials, he could not adjust to the significant and multiple changes in the market that buffeted the company.

It is difficult to measure potential. But Fernández-Aráoz suggested that potential can be evidenced by looking for four character traits. These four are easily remembered as the acronym DICE. Determination. Insight. Curiosity. Engagement.

Determination is resolve in action; resolve that prevails in spite of difficulties, challenges and failures. Determination needs to be accompanied by resilience, for longevity and health. When I was at a large start-up and was interviewing people for a new function, I tried to unearth evidence of this determination and resilience during the interview. Steering the discussion to non-work related challenges and how the candidate responded to these usually gives more clues than work-related scenarios.

Insight is intuitive understanding that goes beyond understanding of facts. It is related to ‘connecting the dots’, the discovery of something new. This is far more difficult to find in a short interview than the other traits. Just like determination and resilience, I found that a broad discussion of current events present richer ground for gleaning whether the candidate has insight.

Curiosity is self-explanatory. Those who love to learn and adapt to change are always curious about things they do not know. This trait usually surfaces during career junctions, so probing into the reasons of the career move may provide evidence of such curiosity.

Engagement is the ability to connect with people, through heart and mind, emotion and intellect. The candidate’s ability to influence, balancing heart and mind approaches, can be validated when they recount specific challenges with managing stakeholders, conflicting business drivers and individual motivations.

Look for Authenticity

Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic, professor at Harvard Business School and author of True North and Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, wrote that authentic leaders are effective because they have a purpose and they show consistency in applying their values to pursue that purpose.

When a leader is authentic, rather than merely emulating another leader, the person is likely to be consistent in purpose and passion, in spite of pressures. During the interview, a discussion of crisis points in the past can provide glimpses of such authenticity or lack of it. Look for inconsistencies of purpose versus action, of beliefs versus choices.

The test of authentic leaders’ values is not what they say but the values they practice under pressure. ~ Bill George, “True North”

So it’s time to choose the leader. Choose wisely. Future-proof your choice.
In addition to competencies, skills and organisation fit, have you checked for potential and authenticity?

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