Leadership

How to Determine Leadership Skills in Potential Candidates

Captain America was a leader from his early days as Steve Rogers. He possessed a moral center embodied by individualism and justice; he always stood up for his team, disliked the limelight, and adapted his strengths and weaknesses to delegate jobs appropriately. He had outstanding leadership skills.

Great business leaders do the same. However, many companies struggle—especially early in the hiring process—to find candidates with leadership potential. In fact, according to a March 2015 survey by Saba and WorkplaceTrends.com, almost half of respondents listed leadership skills as the hardest to fill.

What makes leadership capabilities so difficult to determine? As a soft skill, and one often subjective in nature, leadership causes each individual to respond differently.

Don’t let the next great leader pass through your fingertips. Here are the steps to take to identify these individuals:

Step 1: Define Your ‘Leader Persona’

What does a leader look like? While some might say Captain America, everyone responds in their own way to different managerial styles.

Certain employees might like a stern, ordered approach, whereas others prefer flexibility. The best leaders know their style and what kind of team they can lead.

Start by collaborating with the people a leadership candidate would be leading to create a ‘leader persona’—a hypothetical ideal version of a leader. Ask questions such as what they value in a leader, how different qualities would impact the role, what results they want to achieve in the next year, and how the leader might help them achieve these objectives.

Then, work backward to determine what this person looks like as a candidate.

Determine the major results you want the leader to achieve in the next 12 months, taking into account areas of interest, like customers, investors, employees, and the organization. Include this in the job description to make sure you are enticing the right kind of candidates.

Decide what you want your organization’s leaders to be known for, and then define your leadership skills’ identity by combining descriptors you’ve chosen (e.g., deliberately collaborative).

You will want to assess these skills in the actual interview, so create an interview scorecard that allows you to give points based on the level of each skill. At the end of the interview, tally up the points and determine a ‘grade.’ Push the candidates with the highest grade onto the next step in the hiring process.

Step 2: Develop an Emotional Intelligence Guide

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to recognize your own and other people’s emotions, discern between feelings, use this information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage these emotions to achieve goals and guide behavior.

A potential leader must have EQ to be successful.

Captain America had an unwavering EQ. He believed every team member had his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and he leveraged them to his advantage. He did this when he devised a plan for fighting the Chitauri alien in The Avengers.

Develop an emotional intelligence guide that explains how to spot EQ in candidates to prepare your hiring managers for the interview stage.

First, decide best practices on managing difficult situations, effective ways to communicate, and emotion management. Then, include tips on what it means to be emotionally intelligent, how to manage anger, read body language, and manage emotions in the workplace.

To screen candidates for EQ, ask what inspires them, what they value most in workplace relationships, how they would react in specific situations, etc. Use their answers to determine how they hold up against your leader persona.

Tomorrow we’ll hear more from Lavoie on this topic, including the value of inviting top candidates to a so-called “fit day.”

Andre Lavoie is CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent alignment platform that bridges the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals.