How Do You Spot a Great Leader?

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great leadersAs the world slowly climbs out of recession into what we all hope is a sustained recovery, firms who have for the past few years been locked in to a recession based business strategy, will be developing a new post-recession outlook. Most of them will be looking to seize an early advantage and many will be ready to take more risks and exploit new opportunities with more vigor than they may have done a year ago. Plans for growth, international expansion, new product development may now be back on the table following a period of downsizing, consolidation and circumspection.

But what does this mean for the leadership and management structure of the business? There is likely to be change in store as budgets become unfrozen, new strategies are launched and leaders must revitalize fractured teams that had been negotiating long periods of job and economic uncertainty. Leadership skills will be brought to the fore as there will be a need to hire, motivate, engage and retain staff in order that business can effectively pursue more aggressive forward thinking corporate strategies.

This will feed through to the ranks of the hiring profession as recruiters are tasked with finding great leaders to help drive their business forwards in this new post-recession era. I therefore thought it would be a good time to highlight two key high level indicators for helping recruiters spot a great leader, e.g. someone who can set a direction and steer the ship forward along the desired path until the destination is reached.

1. Can The Candidate Articulate a Clear and Compelling Business Vision?

A recent article from the esteemed Psychology Today, highlights the importance of vision in a leader. (This will not come as a complete surprise to many of you). How can a recruiter effectively assess vision? When assessing/probing the candidate’s background for leadership potential, do you find any accomplishments which show evidence of being visionary or proactive? If not, this is an area to probe more deeply with further questions, such as:

  1. What direction does the candidates believe that the business or function should head in?
  2. How does the candidate think the future will shape out in this sector or business or product area etc…
  3. What does the candidate regard to be the best way forward?

The best leaders will be able to articulate a clear, compelling, and persuasive vision that captures the imagination of listeners and decision makers. To be able to do this effectively, they must be able to combine both a forward thinking nature and an excellent knowledge of the business, function and industry.

2. Does The Candidate Have A Consistent Pattern of Leadership Achievements?

As you all know, being a good leader takes more than just writing down the word ‘Director’ next to a set of dates on a resume. A good leader will have made a mark, or an imprint on their organization.

Therefore, during interview, probe and find out exactly how many staff were led and how effectively they were managed. What projects were they leading; change, growth, downsizing, innovation, international expansion, cost control? Try and understand the exact nature of their leadership achievements and exactly what their involvement was in it. Also, ask questions about which achievements were most enjoyable or satisfying, as this will give you clues to their own motivation and how well they can motivate overs.

Be mindful of what you are trying to achieve in your questioning; you are looking for a consistent pattern of behavior that is present throughout their examples which will give you deep insight into how well the candidate will lead in yours or your client’s business.

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.