Leadership for Life – Selecting Leaders

By on July 1, 2013
Leadership for Life - Selecting Leaders

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I just got back from a great seminar on leadership assessments conducted by Rik Nemanik and Bob Grace, who are collectively known as The Leadership Effect. They covered the why’s and the how’s of leadership assessment, and also talked about the benefits and drawbacks of various methods, including interviews, personality and cognitive testing, etc.

Those of us in the leadership biz have been talking for years about the importance of hiring and promoting the right people, as well as the looming Leadership Vacuum coming from the anticipated retirement of millions of baby-boomers. But despite all the talk and all the seminars, most organizations still haven’t the foggiest idea on how to select the best people for leadership. A lot of the selection gets made on instinct (“good vibrations”) or on a form of Halo Effect (“She’s good at one thing, so she must be good at this other thing.”)

Sometimes people get promoted into leadership positions as a reward for a job well done as a front line performer. In too many organizations, this happens because there is apparently no other way of providing a salary increase or a logical career path. We know, however, that just because someone is a good front line performer, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be a good leader. So the result is that you take someone who’s really good at what they do and put them in a job they’re going to stink at. That has predictable results:

“We’re disappointed in your performance, Bob, and we’re going to have to move in another direction. Stop by HR on your way out to drop off your keys and credit card.”

I drew two conclusions from this morning’s seminar, reinforcing what I’ve known for a long time:

1. Leadership is all about behavior. As with any other job or task, the bottom line for success is what you actually do – not what you think you’ll do, or what your potential is. As I’ve said in my classes on presentation skills, there’s a big difference between what you think you’re going to say, and feeling the words come out of your mouth. Similarly, there can be a big gap between potential and actual experience on the job.

2. There’s more than one kind of leadership. Some people are really good at leading or managing people. Others not so much. But some people are better at managing processes or data. Data managers and process managers can be very important to the success of an organization, and there’s nothing shameful at not being a good people manager. Making sure you put someone in the right job is crucial to that person’s career success and to the success of the organization.

If you’re looking for help with choosing how and why to assess people for leadership potential – and more importantly, leadership success – give me a call at 314-539-5329 and we can talk further.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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