Seven Things to Look for in a New Leader
When you are recruiting for an important executive position, the candidate’s experience, education and past accomplishments become table stakes.
Especially if you are in a competitive, fast-moving business arena you have to know which of the candidates you are looking at is the game changer – the one that will make the difference.
Warren Buffet knows how to do it. He became the third richest person in the world largely by being able to pick the excellent from the good, and then the exceptional from the excellent. Buffet, of course, was investing. But then, so are you.
The contribution to a company’s bottom line made by an incoming executive has been estimated at between 10 and 100 times the compensation – per year. That is a huge range. It means that if you are paying $300k, your candidate can grow to be worth $3 million to the bottom line – or, if she is a game changer, $30 million.
The difference is going to be in the choice you make.
Picking leaders, like picking stocks, no doubt has an element of luck built in and that is what you want to eliminate. Here are seven attributes you should look for in order to make a rational decision based on fact and observation. Some are obvious, some not so much
Attitude. Let’s start with the obvious. Good leaders believe the glass is half full. Managing is a stressful way to spend each day which makes a positive attitude an extremely important asset in motivating others
Openness. Leaders don’t work in a bubble or behind a closed door all day. Keeping employees informed keeps business running smoothly, shows employees you value them and that you respect their opinions.
Adaptability. Leaders must understand, accept and be able to influence change. Not everyone can be this way. What does your candidate do to stay on top of trends? How conversant is he or she with technology pertinent to your business.
Self-confidence. When a leader does not know the answer to a question, he is not afraid to say so – and will make it a point to find and communicate the answer. Ask your candidate what he would do in such a situation. If he skates on the answer, send him home.
Enthusiasm. Close cousin to Attitude above. Enthusiasm is infectious and results in better work and a healthy atmosphere. Ask your would-be leader to speak to something she is really interested in and gauge the enthusiasm level.
Motivation. Good leaders are highly motivated, but rarely by the material rewards of the position, the salary and the benefits. These must be appropriate, but leaders tend to be more driven by wanting to make a difference, wanting to lead and inspire others. You won’t have to look hard for it. The real leaders love to talk about it.
Finally, Risk Awareness. A leader needs to understand risk without being afraid of it. It is an essential component in almost every major business decision. The word risk is often accompanied by “calculated.” A calculated risk is strategic, an unexplored risk is a gamble. Ready, fire, aim is disastrous in most businesses.
True leaders are people you want to know, will enjoy knowing, and will contribute an inordinate amount to the growth and success of your company.
Yes, they are hard to find and even harder to engage because they have to want to come and work with you.
But you have to bet Warren Buffet has a system for picking the outlier companies. You need to work up a system for singling out the exceptional leaders.
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