Leadership Selection Process: How To Pick The Right Leader

The role of key leadership positions in the success and growth of a business can’t be emphasized enough. People that occupy leadership positions are there to take measured risks, innovate, and rally their teams to take businesses to new heights of success. Having said that, the lot that you can hire leaders from is quite small. Also, mistakes made when hiring people at top positions can cost businesses lots of money and at the same time, drag their growth prospects back a few years. This is why businesses need to rethink their leadership selection process.

There needs to be an effective leadership selection process that can identify the skills, qualities, competencies of potential candidates and determine whether or not they are the right fit for these top positions. Whether it is a small, medium, or large company that is looking to hire leaders, trusting the standard hiring process that is used to hire the highest volume positions is the wrong choice for hiring better leaders. Organizations need to understand that hiring entry-level and mid-level candidates is different from hiring for key leadership positions.

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Some organizations also have separate processes for top positions but when it comes to hiring Directors, VPs, and other C-Suite Executives, no process seems to work the way it is supposed to. There are several challenges that organizations face when they are identifying great leaders to occupy top positions.

One of the best practices for hiring for leadership positions is to have an internal pipeline that can be used anytime for filling up these top roles. Unfortunately, most of the organizations don’t have this succession pipeline. The leadership hiring process is anyway a time-consuming task. And when there is no internal pipeline of candidates, organizations have to look outside to fill leadership vacancies almost every time. Most of the time, organizations have to start looking for candidates 6 months or 12 months in advance  to make sure that the leader they hire can fill the open position on time. In addition to more time, the leadership selection process is also known to be cost-intensive. This is why it is always advisable to start internally when looking for leadership candidates. This will not only deliver a higher success rate but also be more cost effective and less time-consuming.

Not having a succession pipeline within the organizations coupled with the scarcity of talent for top positions in the market impacts the likelihood of hiring the right leader for a business. The solution to this issue is keeping a close eye on high performing employees who can step forward and take up the role of a leader when there is a need and deliver consistent performance year on year. The best way to do this is to start identifying these candidates early in their career. When organizations have an idea about these candidates, they can retain them and nurture them over time to make them the right fit for their respective leadership roles in the future. The nurturing of these candidates should be done through structured leadership programs.

Most of the organizations use inaccurate hiring methods for filling top positions. While they complain about the non-availability of quality leaders on the market, the majority of them don’t use the right methods to properly assess the quality of hire. There are only a few companies out there that believe that their leadership hiring techniques are best in class. By not using the right techniques to accurately measure the skills of potential candidates, most of the organizations end up hiring the wrong fit and rejecting the right ones.

Even if organizations have a pool of high-quality candidates to choose from, they can still make the same mistake of hiring the wrong people. This happens when they don’t have an idea of the skills that they need to look for in potential candidates for leadership roles. To overcome this challenge, they can look out for talent assessment tools and competency frameworks for different job roles. And if the traditional methods of hiring are not paying dividends, there is no harm in reinventing the leadership selection process.

Not knowing who to hire is another challenge that many organizations face when they are looking out to fill important leadership positions. It is important to realize that the responsibilities associated with a particular leadership role won’t remain the same for eternity. They will continue to change. This is why organizations need to have a process in place that accurately identifies the skills that will be required by a leader to fulfil responsibilities and deliver consistent results, both today and in the time to come. Organizations need to have the skills that they want their leaders to have, properly documented. By doing this, they can avoid getting stuck in the hiring process due to lack of knowledge of the talent that they are looking for to occupy the leadership position.

A smarter way is to hire people who are versatile in the skills they possess and the responsibilities they can fulfil. This way, organizations will have people who are capable of assuming leadership roles in different areas. This will help organizations to hire leaders who hold relevant skills to do well in more than one area. If things don’t work out well in one area, they can be put in charge of another area where they excel. And this won’t cost the company too much as well.

It is very important to hire leaders that are good at motivating employees, understand a company’s mission and goals, and are willing to take responsibility. These leaders will prove worthy of the investment that organizations make in them, especially during testing times like the world is witnessing at present.

Reference: Reinventing the Leader Selection Process | Harvard Business Review | Everett Spain | November–December 2020 Issue

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