Recruiting the next generation of leaders: what to look for and how to develop them

August 27th, 2014

Recruiting the next generation of leaders: what to look for and how to develop them

Leaders are visionary; they have an innate ability to analyse and anticipate trends and an understanding of how these might impact on an organisation. Leaders are able to motivate, influence and obtain consensus in a way that spreads trust throughout those around them. Knowing what makes a strong leader is one thing, being able to spot these virtues in a candidate at the interview stage, is another.

Knowing your machine is key to finding the cogs to make it run smoothly. An organisation’s industry, culture, history, customer-type, structure and market environment all heavily influence the competencies needed for successful leadership. Full understanding of the diverse requirements for each role is essential to find and then develop the right individuals. To understand your managerial culture, consider the following points:

1) What are the core visions and values that define your organisation’s culture?

2) How does your organisation try to live up to these visions and values?

3) What is your company’s leadership style?

4) What is your company’s approach to training and development?

To measure your organisation’s technical environment, you might consider the following:

1) What specialised technical knowledge do managers need to succeed within this organisation?

2) To what extent is prior experience needed?

3) Have employees managed others or taken part in leadership development programmes or training initiatives?

Once you have a clear idea of the person your company needs, behavioural and technique-based competencies need to be assessed. A corporate competency model will help eliminate the weaker applicants. Tools such as DISC assessment and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator provide detailed psychological profiles through interpretation of apparently innocuous human behaviours, however many organisations do not take advantage of this style of testing.

Such assessments also offer direction regarding how leaders might be suited to different coaching methods and where additional training might be needed to calibrate existing skills to the organisation’s culture.

Beyond the consistency in recruitment that can come through HR systems and competency tests, it is essential that you can trust the person you are hiring. Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in conjunction with the University of Bath argues the potential of values-based interviews to help employers root out trustworthiness in leaders.

Looking at four areas including ability, benevolence, integrity and predictability, the report found that being personable and straight-talking are the strongest attributes associated with being a reliable manager. A common trait among the best personalities was the discretionary awareness of when to take off the managerial hat in order to show a personal side. Claire McCartney, research adviser at CIPD said, “It’s proven that organisations with high levels of trust perform better in innovation, problem solving, engagement and knowledge sharing”.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of the School of Management at the University of Bath who led on the research, advised that the HR system should not be allowed to override our own sense of judgement.

Putting the emphasis on hiring correctly from the start is vital for finding effective leaders who influence performance in a way that supports the company’s philosophy and ensures the organisation does not lose its best performers. Before this it is important to recognise that searching for and recruiting senior management candidates is multi-faceted and far more complicated than recruiting front-line staff.

On a fundamental level, correct recruitment hinges on exploiting that high level of communication that senior level leaders must have, and reaching deeper into the individual, far beyond that good first impression.

Insight team

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