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How To Hire Your Organisation’s Future Leaders

Are you having trouble replacing leaders who have departed for new pastures? Or maybe your company is growing and you need a new batch of talented individuals to step up and take more responsibility?

Even if you don’t need new leaders right now, it’s likely you will do in the near future, given the growing rate of employee turnover in Australia.

Unless you have the necessary individuals in-house, you will be reliant upon finding and hiring the right people to take the step up when the time comes.

Doing so is something of an art. Spotting qualities of leadership in young people can be especially challenging for HR professionals. So how can you tap into the pool of talent out there, with one eye on developing them into the future leaders your business craves?


First: Have your mentoring and feedback systems in place

There’s no point hunting for leadership qualities if you don’t yet have the in-house systems in place to develop the people you hire and to regularly monitor and evaluate progress. The best leaders often grow into the role and are not necessarily hired as the ‘finished article’, ready to go.

Potential young leaders need nurturing. Undergraduates are often raw and need considerable guidance. So what mentoring and coaching programs do you have in place? Are you partnering promising individuals with those who represent the leadership levels that you aspire to across your organisation? Do you have training and development programs to improve leadership qualities over time? Are their management classes in place and systems of feedback to ensure employees remain on the right track?

Also, are you communicating the broader company vision to new hires? Do you allow them to get a full view of the workings of the company by rotating them through different roles in different departments?

Clearly, this all takes some investment of time and resources to get right but those organisations that crack it can reap rich rewards further down the track. Those that hire promising potential leaders but fail to develop them will likely see their best talent head out the door rather than hanging around to tread water.


Look beyond IQ

Some of the best leaders and entrepreneurs of today did poorly at school. Sir Richard Branson is a prime example.

There is a strong tendency for recruiters to look at the school name, academic grades, and other easily measurable qualities rather than to hire based upon character, personality, or attitude.

Leaders lead people. To do that effectively, they need to develop strong relationships with, and understand, others. This is never reflected in academic grades and it must be assessed independently of these other, easily measurable factors. It is difficult to find out in tests and is generally brought to the surface through more in-depth conversations than are generally afforded in short interviews. The mentors themselves may be the best people to judge how well a particular individual can satisfy the ‘softer’ elements of leadership that are so important to success.


Look for positivity and passion

Great leaders are passionate about things they care about – and people should be top of that list. Passion is infectious. It creates an energised working environment and sparks others into life.

During the interview process, as you assess personality, find out what potential hires are passionate about; how do they demonstrate this passion and how might this translate to the workplace and to a leadership role?

Positivity is another important characteristic; a positive view of the world and a can-do attitude are bare essential qualities of leadership. They should not be too difficult to assess with some careful questioning.


Assess values such as trust and honesty

You will need to uncover the values that potential hires hold dear. Trust, honesty, sincerity, accountability, and transparency are the types of values that most quality leaders display. Of course, personal ambition is important, but not at the expense of other core values that the organisation places importance in.

Such qualities are not easy to measure and it will take some carefully constructed conversations and questions to uncover. But invest the time – it’s worth it


Hire tenacity and loyalty

Good leaders don’t give up. They fight for their team and they fight for what they want. Tenacity is a rare quality that is a great indicator of success…most successful leaders and entrepreneurs display it in abundance.

Is the potential hire prepared to step beyond the basic requirements of the position when needed – to achieve exceptional results? And, if they are tenacious, who are they tenacious for? Only for personal gain or are they prepared to go the extra yard for others?


Is there an emphasis on teamwork?

Find out whether your potential hire prefers to work alone or as part of a team. Leaders need to relish teamwork; they see the value of others’ talents in getting things accomplished while also recognising their own limitations.

Many of the best leaders are able to cover their own weaknesses by bringing in those who are better in those areas – a useful quality to have.


Look for examples of leadership

Leaders are all around us in daily life; not just in the work environment. Potential leaders usually demonstrate leadership qualities through social activities, schoolwork, family life, or in sports well before they become leaders in the office.

Can your potential hire demonstrate the ability to motivate and to galvanise others? Was there a particular project or team that they led successfully in the past?

You’ll never get this spot on first time. You will hire people who you expect to make good leaders but who will not make the step up; conversely, others that you had discounted from leadership roles may surprise you. Nothing is fixed and that’s why your hiring system needs constant assessment, tweaking, and reassessment. Over time, your success rate will improve.

I help organisations identify strategies for more effective hiring practices, which can improve the pool of potential leaders available. Start the conversation by emailing me at: