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Select Leaders by Assessing the Style and Personality Traits of Your Hires

The Personality Traits of Leaders

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.

'The Complete Book of Intelligence Tests' by Philip Carter (ISBN 0470017732) 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.

Attributes of Star Performers and Effective Managers

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

'Management Level Psychometric and Assessment Tests' by Andrea Shavick (ISBN 1845280288) 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.

Interpersonal Style and Temperament of the Manager

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.

'Ultimate Psychometric Tests' by Mike Bryon (ISBN 074946349X) 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.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

CEOs Want Executives Who Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader

A CEO’s job is to keep his people interested in staying, and working, and growing and prospering with this company.

Larry Bossidy, the retired CEO of AlliedSignal took this philosophy a step further and extended it to the people he moved into senior management positions. Bossidy said, “I want to find leaders who are human beings, and who have an interest in being successful for themselves and want to share that success with others. If I can get people like this, they’re easy to lead.”

Bossidy has said that he is looking for the following characteristics when filling up the executive ranks at his company:

  • Positive people, to begin with. CEOs like to see people with smiles on their faces. Business is difficult. It’s so much better to greet the world with a smile on your face. You can’t show me people with great accomplishments who are negative people.
  • CEOs like to see ambitious people who want to get something done.
  • 'Execution' by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan (ISBN 0609610570) CEOs look to see if they can contain their ego. Do CEOs see a person who can work well with others? Do CEOs see a person who’s shown some interest in others? Are these the people who can share their knowledge with other people and do it gracefully and willingly? Or are they very self-centered, very ambitious, but not necessarily to the benefit of anybody else?

Under Bossidy, AlliedSignal purchased and became Honeywell. Honeywell is a prominent engineering services and aerospace systems company. Before AlliedSignal, Bossidy spent 30 years working his way up the executive ranks at General Electric, where he was a protege of Jack Welch.

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Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

Never Hire in a Hurry

Interpersonal Skills

Typically, there is some external pressure to fill any open position, and you have to remind yourself that there’s no pressure so great to fill an open position. None.

'Topgrading: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method' by Bradford D. Smart (ISBN 1591845262) I do not care how long it takes. Because too many people make mistakes by hiring too quickly. The new employees are not bad people; they just are not right in your setting.

Take as long as you need to fill a key position. You can live without somebody filling the position than hire somebody unsuitable in a hurry and suffer the consequences. It is indeed very painful to hire incorrectly.

Be fastidiously selective in who you hire. Recommended Book: ‘Topgrading: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method’ by Bradford D. Smart.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Guy Kawasaki’s “Shopping Center Test” for Recruiting

Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley investor, business advisor, and author

Recruiting is the hardest part of a manager’s job. Many managers do not hire people who are better than they themselves are. It might be subconscious—managers do not want to be disgraced by one of their direct reports—or perhaps managers do not know how to identify talent.

How is a manager or recruiter to know in his/her gut that a particular candidate is an excellent person for a role, after an interview? Silicon Valley investor, business advisor, and author of twelve excellent books on business and entrepreneurship, Guy Kawasaki proposes the “Shopping Center Test.”

As the last step in the recruiting process, apply the Shopping Center Test.

It works like this: Suppose you’re at a shopping center, and you see the candidate. He is fifty feet away and has not seen you. You have three choices:

  1. beeline it over to him and say hello;
  2. say to yourself, “This shopping center isn’t that big; if I bump into him, then I’ll say hello, if not, that’s okay too;”
  3. get in your car and go to another shopping center.

My contention is that unless the candidate elicits the first response, you shouldn’t hire him.

For more on entrepreneurship, see ‘The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything’ by Guy Kawasaki. Also see this YouTube video of Guy talking about recruiting.

List of Books Authored by Guy Kawasaki

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Posted in Management and Leadership

When great leaders are in short supply, how to hire leaders with integrity?

How to Hire Leaders with Integrity

In the aftermath of ethics scandals at Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, companies are increasingly emphasizing ethics as a critical leadership behavior and put a high premium on finding executives with high ethical standards. Values such as integrity and honesty must be supported by company leaders and reinforced through any organization’s reward systems. Companies must rely on the leadership and character of individual managers and business units to protect whistleblowers.

Suppose you are charged to find such a person. What would you look for? How do you discover a person who will act with integrity and character when put in a position of power?

People with records of accomplishment of honesty and integrity are catapulted into roles where they are in a position to use their power and influence to obtain enormous personal wealth. For many that temptation is simply overwhelming. Their position appears to cause them to believe that they are no longer governed by old rules.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy, analyzed the profiles of some 25,000 managers and leaders and compared the top 10 percent with the bottom 10 percent. As viewed by peers, subordinates and bosses, these top people were rarely evaluated as being unethical.

What could explain the sudden rash of senior executives who display such behavior? There are three distinctive possibilities:

  1. People who rise to the top are more greedy and dishonest, but manage to camouflage that until they get into senor roles,
  2. The opportunities for unethical behavior are not so tempting at lower levels,
  3. There is greater scrutiny of the behavior of middle and upper-middle managers.

Ethics and Integrity: what should you look for, or look out for?

Zengar and Folkman discovered that 16 behaviors and competencies that separate those who are perceived highly. One of those was “honesty and integrity,” a central characteristic of great leaders. Zengar and Folkman also discovered certain “companion behaviors.” One is “assertiveness.” People with high scores on honesty and integrity also have high scores on speaking up and letting their views be known. They are not passive. They take initiative.

As Zengar and Folkman studied the behavior of leaders embroiled in scandal, they saw two patterns.

  1. Ethical Leaders Have the Courage to Speak Up. The mind of a conspiring fool is very fertile. Honesty and integrity are often talked about, so the concepts are not foreign. In addition, many people inside are aware of unethical practices that become known. Having the courage to speak up predicts those who display high integrity through their careers. Companies cannot tolerate people who know of improper practices but who keep quiet about them. Such “wink-wink” behavior is not characteristic of those with high character.
  2. Ethical Leaders Display Genuine Consideration for Others. Unethical behavior invariably damages other people, whether they are customers, shareholders, or employees. Gains from greedy behavior come at somebody’s expense. A thick-skinned view of others—the opposite of compassion and consideration—makes such behavior possible. Ethics and integrity are ever so fragile.

Look for people who have a record of accomplishment of honesty in all their dealings who speak up, especially when it comes to matters of principle; who display genuine concern for others; and who treat other people of all ranks with dignity and respect.

You will usually find them approachable, humble, self-effacing, and willing to share the spotlight with others. Instead of seeking “quick fix” responses to costly ethics blunders, such leaders should be able to proactively instill ethics into the decision-making process and nurture ethical behavior among employees. Great leaders are in short supply.

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Posted in Management and Leadership