Looking for leaders

Suresh Raina gives you pivotal insights on how to pick great leaders.

Suresh Raina gives you pivotal insights on how to pick great leaders.

Retired Honeywell CEO Larry Bossidy was once quoted as saying, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on your people.”

The question, “How to hire for the leadership positions”, faced by any board chairman or the CEO always elicits a wide range of responses. Senior leaders with decades of experience of hiring, and who have done extensive research on the subject, have tried to pin it down to a few select traits that can be looked at. These are vision and ability to predict future; leading the teams; having empathy and sixth sense of market changes and imagining the unimaginable, etc. etc.

Leaders are hired for leading teams, delivering results, meeting short term targets, creating long term value and above all building businesses. But how do you distinguish between being bright vs. being a performer. As they say “past performance is only an indication of future success” but can you scrutinize the past to identify the chaff from the real stuff? The leader carries with him/her the immense responsibility of managing the stakeholders, promoting the right behaviour, building the right teams, finding the right talent and matching them with the job at hand. Not only he/ she does this by looking at the rear-view mirror but more so by looking at the road in front and anticipating what lies ahead.

The characteristics I have liked the most and have used in my search assignments over several years are well captured in the Jack Welch’s bestseller “Winning”. Relatively easier to focus on, limited in number and quite wide in scope, Welch has narrowed it down to four tests (Ts), four Es & one P framework.

Here are the four Ts:

1. Integrity: Does the candidate keep his/her word, take accountability for the task, have candour and above all does s/he play by rules. It may not be easy to test the integrity, but if you look hard enough and talk to enough references, you will be able to get the information you are seeking.

2. Intelligence: We are not talking about college degrees; it is more about the demonstration of curiosity. Smart people come from any background. What we are looking for is the breadth of knowledge to lead the organisation with its complexities without losing your thought and balance.

3. Maturity: Ability to withstand the heat, handle setbacks, enjoy success are the traits we are looking for. Does the leader have humility and a respect for others’ emotions? Does s/he have a sense of humour? Does s/he have resilience, to get up from the last fall, and get back into the saddle and run even harder in the next race.

4. Authenticity: You cannot make hard decisions and stand tall for what you believe in, unless you are comfortable with being who you are. Only authentic people are liked as they have no pretentions, and touch people on an emotional level. These are people with a strong character.
And the four ‘E’s:

1. Energy: Ability of the person to seek and thrive on action, someone who is enthusiastic about the business, growth and the challenges that come with it. S/he is an extrovert who simply enjoys working and interacting with people.

2. Energise: People who not only have a high energy level but also energise others by their positive attitude, strong persuasion skills, and above all the jest to take on the impossible. Such persons galvanise the entire team.

3. Edge: His/ her ability to make the judgement call and take tough decisions. It is more about the effectiveness to take a call with limited data, as in most cases, you do not have access to all the facts.

4. Execute: The ability to manage his/ her way through the chaos and get the job done. Someone who knows how to take action and push through, often amidst lack of clarity and multiple chains of command to cut through.

And the one ‘P’: This is about passion and about winning. These are people who care about their teams, business and growing in it, and who get a kick following success. These are leaders who have juice for life in their veins.

It is one of the many frameworks that one can use while looking for that exclusive leader and hopefully if executed right will deliver one!

-The author is Senior Partner, Hunt Partners-India, executive search firm

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