CEO tenure is becoming shorter and less secure. Half of today’s CEOs have been in the post less than three years.
Why the rise of revolving-door executives? Some reasons have to do with economic uncertainty, but companies also need to look at their recruiting, selection, and development practices. Those in leadership roles often come from the same universities and graduate schools with qualities similar to those of incumbent leaders. High-potential recruits are placed on a fast track to management positions where they tend to perpetuate perspectives of existing leaders. They move through positions at a fast pace, which inhibits them from learning their jobs well and reaping the harvest of seeds they sow.
When hiring or promoting managers, many organizations rely on requisite knowledge, experience, and a track record. However, if they fail to investigate the behavioral characteristics of candidates, they may make a costly mistake. Many executives who have a string of early successes because of their technical genius or problem-solving skills later derail because of poor interpersonal relationships. The failure to build and maintain an effective team proves disastrous.
To pick the right managers, you need to assess the softer qualities of leadership. Those responsible for making people decisions need to know, for example, if the candidate inspires trust, listens well, delegates tasks, and shares praise and credit. These competencies are a function of personality.
Traits Common of Successful Corporate Leaders
While leadership styles vary from person-to-person, in my experience, great executives share a number of common, observable behaviors that support their success. Leadership styles are not something to be tried on like so many suits, to see which fits.
- Tolerance for risk and uncertainty: experience with calculating and encouraging appropriate risk
- High level of empathy: can walk in the shoes of the customer and convey the insights to others
- Deep expertise in a least one field: the specific area is less important than the rigor and dedication any deep expertise demonstrates
- Ability to work with varied and complex information
- Collaborative interpersonal style: avoid big egos, aggressive personalities, and go-it-alone types
- Passion: clear passion for your customer, your company, and innovation
- Strong drive for results: desire to take ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace
- Mature intelligence: ability to make connections and build ideas without needing to be the smartest person in the room
The more companies recognize about leaders— what they truly care about, how they make decisions, why they do what they do—the more effective they will be at organizing the support of others for what they anticipate to accomplish.
The attributes of star performers and effective managers are often personality characteristics–such as reliable, curious, even-tempered. Since people are perceived as leaders to the degree they are trustworthy, forward looking, inspiring, and decisive, the suitability of a candidate for a management job is more than simply a matter of the candidate’s function, experience, or position.
The most crucial factors are personality and behavioral style. Interpersonal skills can be measured cheaply, efficiently, and accurately; however, these skills are shaped early in life. By the time we reach adulthood, they are deeply ingrained. So, companies benefit by focusing their energies on selection rather than development of interpersonal competencies.
Personality Testing in the Workplace: Pros and Cons
Assessing behavioral style is necessary to determine suitability but insufficient. People who interview well may also have less attractive interpersonal behaviors. These self-defeating be-haviors disrupt team performance and derail careers. Since these “dark side” characteristics are hard to detect by interviews and assessments, conduct interviews with former associates. The “what” required for a successful team could include education, time, and communication skills to be able to work effectively without barriers. The most important part of the team building process may actually be the “why” of the project.
Adopting behaviours associated with transformational leadership (such as stimulating followers to engage in complex decision-making and problem-solving) may in the short term lead to increases in the management quality of their followers. In addition, transformational leaders can also have a positive effect on the well-being, motivation and job satisfaction of those they supervise.
Personality Tests for Hiring
Core values must also be assessed. No matter how talented you may be, if your values are at odds with the culture, you will not fare well. People are happiest working where their core values and goals are compatible with those of the organization.
Personality is pivotal in selecting managers. Compatibility is vital when considering the transfer or promotion of executive talent. The interpersonal style and temperament of the manager must be congruent with the character and needs of the firm. People can be taught certain skills and technologies, but not the traits that turn the use of those technologies into results. If personality and style are out of step with the new situation, nothing can prevent failure. Even the best leaders of the most capable teams promoting well-tested innovations may fail if the context in which the change is to be implemented is not considered. Capable leaders and well-balanced teams must personalize and adapt their approaches to create cultures and contexts where change will flourish.