A Future?

One of the myths of management is that good strategic planning and an appropriate vision will ensure an institution’s future. This is simply is not enough.

Only the effective selection nurture and assignment of senior people will secure an institution. When asked about the future of an organization, the answer is: Senior leaders are the future.

A real mystery surrounds human potential and selecting the right person for a difficult job. On one hand, someone’s performance often exceeds our expectations. On the other, as an expert says, he got a great pedigree but he does not hunt.

As a way of composing voice and touch, let us think about selecting senior people in terms of what leaders owe the candidate.

Leaders owe it to candidates for senior positions to ask. What is it that you will uniquely bring to the organization and to this senior position? A leader will be on the look out for several things in the answer.

What does the candidate say about his or her own level of energy and willingness to take risks? Do the candidate’s comments show an understanding of the company’s institutional values and culture? What does the candidate say about the competence, contribution and commitment he or she will bring to your organization – both personally and professionally?

In interviews with senior people pay attention to pronouns. Listen carefully to the candidate’s language. Does the “I” keep appearing? In the case of senior leaders, that is a red flag.

Listen for the ability to communicate. Listen for spontaneity. Once a man was interviewed who seemed to have all the credentials. In the course of the conversation, he told that he had lived for some months in London for years.

When asked him to tell about London, he answered succinctly, its the most central location in Europe if you’re seeking to establish distribution. Not a word about history or museums or theater or architecture or parks or people.

After you select a senior leader, there is one more step you may want to consider. Senior leaders have difficult jobs to do: we share a high rate of failure.

Ask the questions, if together you and I fail how would you prefer to deal with it? Would you like to be transferred to another position in the company? Would you like a quiet six months to search for a new job and then resign? Would you prefer to be fired?

This kind of discussion, lays the groundwork for open and relaxed talk about performance. Being promoted to a senior position is a risky business. Candid talk about failure makes the risk easier to live with.

Do leaders have a future? Yes. But is a future filled with risk and uncertainty. Does your institution have a future? A professional certainly hopes so. But he says he is willing to guarantee that the quality of that future depends on the senior people you are selecting in the present.

Attributes of Leadership:

Here is a list of attributes that may help you coalesce your thinking about the good work of leadership.

Integrity is the linchpin of leadership. Where integrity is at stake, behavior is the only score that is kept.

Vulnerability: Vulnerable leaders trust in the abilities of other people. They allow the people who follow them to do their best.

You cannot buy discernment you can find it. Discernment lies somewhere between wisdom and judgment.

Awareness of the human spirit: In a special way, all the qualities of a good leader stem from this.

Courage in relationships; Followers expect a leader to face up to tough decisions.

You’ll find a sense of humor essential to living with ambiguity.

Intellectual energy and curiosity: We cannot make good decisions unless we accept the responsibility for learning frantically the things that produce them.

Respect for the future, regard for the present understanding of the past: Leaders move constantly back to the future. Our perception of each becomes clear and valid if we understand the past.

Predictability: Leaders must be calculable forces in organizations; they are not free to follow a whim.

Breadth: A vision of what an organization can become has room for all contributions from all quarters.

Comfort with ambiguity: Healthy organizations exhibit a degree of chaos. A leader will make some sense of it.