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How Do You Select Leaders? Is it important?

{ 11 comments… add one }
how to select leaders, leadership selection tips

What’s your process for selecting leaders?

I am interested in hearing how you select leaders in your organization and whether it is working.

I have worked for large fortune 500, medium and small-sized companies. My experience has been that leaders are often selected based on their technical skills more than their ability to lead people.

Because someone is a really good customer service representative for example, they are selected to be the new supervisor. Or because someone is the best processor they have on the team, they are selected to manage the processing team.

This seems a bit backwards to me. Would you buy a house just because it is painted in a color you really like? Of course not; price, square footage, location, number of bedrooms and many other considerations go into buying a house.

Selecting the right leader requires many considerations as well. They include the person’s ability to build trust, ability to motivate others, level of emotional intelligence, strong communication and listening skills and so many more. But yet, how many organizations really take the time to figure this out?

When organization take this approach to selecting leaders they get managers, not leaders. There is a distinct difference.

Instead of selecting a leader who inspires, they select someone who demands. Instead of selecting a leader who cares about people, they select someone who only cares about numbers. Instead of selecting a leader who creates vision, they select someone who is focused on today.

The decisions to hire or promote a new leader is an important one. Studies have consistently shown that the number one reason people leave companies or lack motivation is due to poor leadership.

Again, I am interested in learning how your organization selects leaders. Do you have a process identifying them? What types of things do you look for? Do you even agree it’s that important?

We would love to hear your opinion below. Thanks.

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  • Myron J Radio December 10, 2009, 1:24 pm

    Mike – Great question. We have a process that helps organizations with their succession planning and leadership development. It begins with a structured review of the leadership positions. This renders a Role Profile for the ideal leader from a Style, Motivation and Mindset perspective. Incumbents or job aspirants can then review these profiles to see how well they “fit” into a specific role.
    We also have parallel assessments to measure one’s personal profile. This can also be used to match candidates to future positions or to develop incumbents for roles as they evolve.
    For more info please visit our website at

  • Debra Young December 11, 2009, 7:14 pm

    As an executive search firm, we have a very thorough vetting process that helps our clients identify executives that would be great leaders for their organization. It goes way beyond behavioral interviewing to get underneath the resume to the personal competencies, cultural match and business values alignment. The intangibles are just as important, if not more important that just making a technical skills match. We have had tremendous success with our process and would love to share it with any hiring authorities who really want to hire executives that have been vetted using a 360 degree analysis of a candidate.

  • Thomas Samson December 13, 2009, 5:47 am

    Selecting leaders is probably not the best way to approach this subject but rather “What are organizations doing to GROW leaders?” For more than two decades we have been working with clients to address this issue and we have learned from the best and the worst. Leadership is a developed talent for most of us. The selection process should focus on which individuals in an organization are candidates for leadership and then guide them through a process of professional development that brings them into new roles based on the results of the development process. Unfortunately, far too many organizations focus on the results directly created by the individual when promoting from within and not the results of the team the individual is responsible for leading. Individuals who are promoted to lead teams from an individual contributor role face the largest challenge in most organizations, especially if that organization provides little, if any, leadership development or mentoring support.
    Please visit for more discuss on this topic.

  • Patrick T. Malone December 14, 2009, 5:43 am

    Interesting question but I wonder if what you are really asking is how does an organization select it’s executives and managers? Just because someone is in a Leadership position within an organization does not automatically qualify them as a leader.
    My experience is that real leaders are selected by their followers. If they have willing followers committed to a common course of action then they are a leader regardless of title or position.
    Read “Decision making vs. decision getting for more information–Decision-getting/6

  • Maximiliaan Edward Kopijn December 19, 2009, 4:49 am

    I fully agree with the comment made by Thomas Samson. Real leaders reveal themselves unpurposely in daily practice – at various levels within companies and organisations – by their actions and behaviours in relation with others.
    “Leaders” selected by executive search firms or existing “higher management” often often are just “self or agency proclaimed wannabees”. They are intelligent enough to behave and act externally exactly the way they are supposed to do. Managers and CEO’s who consider themselves leaders – which they unfortunately quite often are NOT – usually look for replicas of themselves when recruiting new managers. Thus preventing to lead the company one or more steps beyond they were capable of themselves. Luckily for some companies, they have a few real – hidden – leaders who bring the company forward, even if they are not recognised as such by the ones in – offcial – power positions.

  • Mike Rogers December 28, 2009, 9:27 am

    Wonderful discussion everyone. Growing leaders is probably the best approach. And has to be done through careful selection of individuals who show an ability to lead others, inspire others, think strategically, build relationships etc… Once the selection is made, then they can be put on a development path. But again, we get it wrong most of the time by selecting those who show great individual technical knowledge. And what makes it even worse is we don’t take the time to develop them.

  • Wayne September 1, 2012, 10:21 am

    Effective leaders build high-trust relationships. They also understand the value of developing high-trust cultures.
    In my experience working with organizations of various types and sizes, leaders are grown as you suggest, Mike, and, to continue that analogy, they are often identified for future development because they possess the seeds of leadership potential.
    Over the years I have developed a strategic framework for building high-trust relationships. It is a model that clarifies the roles of an effective leader, and the factors that contribute to high trust throughout an organization.
    Leadership potential must be judged, as this “Trust Model” suggests, on a combination of relevant core competencies and character traits that make a leader someone others will trust.

  • Mike Rogers September 3, 2012, 12:12 pm

    Thanks Wayne. Trust is the most critical component of any relationship in my opinion. Leadership is about relationships. If a leader can’t establish trust he or she will not be effective.

  • Dave September 4, 2012, 11:26 am

    Unfortunately, many leaders are chosen because they were great in their ‘craft’ positions. I saw far too many sales managers selected because they were great sales people … but they couldn’t manage a one-car funeral.
    Deep study must be conducted involving input from people who worked with leadership candidates in very trying times. A lot can also be said for the ‘gut feel’ about leadership candidates by seasoned hiring managers.

  • Mike Rogers September 6, 2012, 1:39 pm

    Thanks for your comments Dave.
    I think what is critical is for organizations to set up leadership development programs where they best can be identified from a pool of trainer, eager and capable leaders.
    What do you think?


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