With “social distancing” the new imperative, The Bailey Group has transition to teleworking. One of the ways I’m staying productive during unexpected openings in my schedule is catching up on my reading and podcast list. Themes that have always been of interest for me, and particularly stand out in our current environment, are:
- Defining exactly WHAT effective leadership is and identifying which leaders have those characteristics
- Consulting with leaders so that organizations can align about the competencies and characteristics of effective leaders and who in the organization meets them best
These readings and the recent work I do with clients in this area have helped me clarify my point of view. If you are in the process of considering succession planning and/or pre-hire processes, these may be helpful to you too.
First, this is not easy work. Several things make this challenging:
- Organizations and individual leaders do not always agree as to what the characteristics and competencies of effective leaders are. And, when members of a Board or ELT have different things in mind, they will evaluate candidates very differently.
- Even when organizations and individuals align on a set of characteristics, predicting with confidence who best fits those characteristics is an art AND a science. The art is about how well the evaluator(s) can “read people.” Some are clearly more effective at this than others. The science is about using the most effective tools (e.g. validated and reliable personality and cognitive judgment assessments that are appropriate for the purpose of selecting individuals) to do this. NOTE: the science, while not perfect, works better!
- Even when individuals who are choosing leaders agree to a set of characteristics and competencies, and create a “success profile,” there are still different interpretations of definitions of the characteristics and competencies listed.
- No matter how many articles are written about the most critical leadership competencies (often including humility, open-mindedness, emotional intelligence, collaboration, strategic ability/critical reasoning aptitude, agility, courage), there are still many unconscious biases that exist in the heads of the choosers that cause them to (sometimes) choose the same cluster of characteristics and competencies that are NOT on this list but are believed to be critical (e.g. over-confidence, dominance, technical competence, charisma). NOTE: Those characteristics are good in medium amounts but too much or too little is not good for your organization!
- No leaders have all the disparate and varied competencies and characteristics that are necessary. The criteria for the ideal leader are truly ideal. It would be great for an organization to “get it all” in one leader–but it can’t.
- Choices must be made based on imperfect and incomplete data. Personal beliefs about who makes the best leaders and one’s comfort level with some individuals impact our choices…. but they are not the same as data backed up by research. This can lead us to continue to exclude women, people of color, diverse sexual preferences, and other leaders who do not fit the traditional (read middle-aged, straight, male) model of leadership.
- After all this assessment and choice making is done, the process itself isn’t. If your candidates are internal, providing feedback and continued dialog about what was learned and what can be done to develop these leaders (selected or not) going forward is something often overlooked. Getting alignment with these employees (e.g., their self-described interests, skills, values, talents) with the needs of the organization now and in the future is critical, but often overlooked.
Organizations deal with this every day. All of them want the best candidates to fill the key roles. All of them want to be able to predict with more certainty whether someone successful in one role or leadership level will be successful in the next one. All want to know that someone has the knowledge and technical skills they need to be credible and the people skills to able to inspire and lead others so that they will follow. In addition, they want leaders who can assure execution and be strategic and agile enough to be able to adjust goals and plans as needed.
The more I do of this work, the harder I know it is. The process of selection and succession planning can’t be short cut if you want quality. The Bailey Group can help you through this and I’d be glad to share what I am continuing to learn. Send me an email and we’ll teleconference!