Imagine you are looking for a leader to take over a team or organisation. Let's start by assuming three things.
First, you know the qualities they need to demonstrate.
Second, you have drawn up a short list of candidates.
Third, you are now ready to meet the candidates.
Here is a framework you can use when interviewing the prospective leader.
1) You can communicate the overall picture of success.
Give the candidates a clear view of the results you want delivered. They must know the overall ‘what’, the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ – the key strategies to follow to reach the goals.
Try to be as specific as possible about your desires, but at the same time invite them to share their views. You want a leader, not just a manager.
Good leaders will have done their pre-work and have strong opinions about the potential vision. So you may want to start by giving them the following overview.
2) You can invite each candidate to show how they would like to contribute to delivering the picture of success.
Now it is time to hand over the baton. You need to know each candidate’s ability to clarify and deliver a vision, plus their view of role. So you may want to say something like:
Looking at what we have outlined, we wonder if you would be interested in the role. If so, we would like you to share with us your views on the following things.
a) Your picture of success – the goals you would aim to achieve.
This is the 'What'. You may, of course, want to add to the vision that we have given.
b) Your strategies for achieving the goals.
This is the 'How'. It is important for us to know the key principles you would follow to reach the goals.
c) Your view of the support and resources you would need.
This may include the 'Who' – the people – and other back up you believe would be required to reach the goal.
d) Your view of the challenges you would face.
This to include how you would tackle these challenges and any potential tough decisions you might need to take. Also describe two things.
First, the quick successes you would get. Second, the ways you would keep the board in the loop.
You are obviously in charge of the team, but it is vital to keep managing us. We will then give you the support and freedom required to deliver our shared picture of success.
e) Your view, on a scale 0 – 10, of the possibility of reaching the goals that we have outlined.
If appropriate, describe what you believe could be done to improve the ratings or adjust the picture of success.
Finally, we would like you to say how much, again on a scale 0 – 10, you would like this leadership role.
Certainly this is all commonsense. The language is a bit bald, however, so you may want to modify it to fit the occasion. But it is vital to cover several areas.
First, to outline the results that must be delivered.
Second, to understand the quality of the prospective leader’s thinking.
Third, to clarify the degree of effort each candidate is prepared to put into focusing on the potential role.
You are then in a much better position to select the best candidate.
3) You can hire the leader who is most likely to deliver the agreed picture of success.
“We now use this approach when interviewing all prospective leaders in our organisation,” explained one person. “The effects have been interesting.
“First, it has improved the quality of the hires – partly because people have been forced to think through the role before coming for interview.
“Second, it has helped to clarify people’s desire to do a particular role. Because of the preparation work involved, we no longer get people using the process to ‘practice their interviewing skills’.
“Finally, it forces us to continually revisit our overall goals and ensure we hire people who want to deliver the vision.”
You will have your own methods for selecting the right candidate. The potential leader’s heart must be in the right place, but so must their head.
They must demonstrate both instinct and intellect, rather than try to bluff their way through. This process forces them to get their act together before the formal interview.
Imagine you are in charge of the leadership selection process for an organisation. Try completing the following exercise that invites you to adapt the ideas in your own way. Making these happen will ensure you continue to select good leaders.