Here’s an all too common leadership scenario: a leadership position opens up, or a new one is created, and management turns to the top performer on the team, or most senior member of the department to fill the role. That’s it ‒ the total leadership evaluation process.
But is seniority or technical competence or even outstanding performance in the work at hand enough to succeed in a leadership role? Of course not. And since you don’t have the time or resources to train everyone before they step into the leadership role, where do you start when you need to find the best candidate?
Here’s an outline for the most basic assessment for leader selection:
The Organizational Considerations
CONTEXT. What exactly are you looking for?
- Written job description ‒what are you asking them to do?
- Goals and Expectations ‒ how will they know if they’ve succeeded?
- Existing Structures ‒ how does the role fit into the whole organization?
- Industry knowledge ‒ what level of industry knowledge is needed?
- Timeframe ‒ when must a decision be made?
FIT. What does the ideal candidate look like?
- Critical success factors ‒ what habits are needed to succeed as a leader in this role?
- Cultural values ‒ what values does the organization want their leaders to embody?
- Relevant experience ‒ what past experiences are necessary to this role?
- Temperament and personal qualities ‒ is there a personality component to success in this role?
- Necessary skills ‒ what specifically does the role require that are non-negotiable?
The Individual Considerations
WILLINGNESS. Is the candidate willing to do the work of leading?
- Desire ‒ do they want the challenges of leadership?
- Energy ‒ are they willing to put in the time and energy required to lead well?
- Openness ‒ are they willing to learn from their team, their boss and their peers?
- Courage ‒ are they willing to face tough times, and tough people?
- Resilience ‒ are they willing to give it their best effort every day?
CAPACITY. Are they actually suited to leadership?
- Emotional intelligence ‒ are they mature enough for the role at this time?
- Deportment ‒ do they present themselves well to every audience with whom they will interact?
- Organization ‒ is there a real capacity to balance tasks, time, people, budgets, materials, goals, and reports?
- Learning channel ‒ are they a learner and do they know how they learn best?
- Adaptability ‒ can they navigate changing situations and maintain balance?
- Communication ‒ do they understand the value of clarity and can they achieve it?
Most organizations undervalue the selection process for leadership roles. And they pay the price. Higher turnover, wasted time and money, demoralized teams, and missed opportunities to name a few of the consequences of a “plug and pray” approach. The outline above is basic and no guarantee of successfully selecting a leader ‒ it’s a just a starting point. All selection involves risk and work, but creating a process that brings clarity, creates communication and makes honest assessments possible is fundamental to wise leader selection.