Hiring quality leaders is a tricky business. In my mind it's as much art as science.
I have been very fortunate to have surrounded myself with exceptional leaders on my teams throughout the years. How much of this is dumb luck vs. skill can easily be debated. However, there are some key characteristics I look for in leaders that may be of value to you in considering your next hire.
Most of the people I know recruit for talent and knowledge. Certainly surrounding yourself with highly skilled staff is always a good idea. However, I have a slightly different focus. I believe that while innate intelligence and skills are important, that attitude is more important than aptitude. First of all, technology and business change so quickly that what you know today could be useless in a few years. Having current technical skills or understanding the existing business process is valuable but has a limited shelf life.
I think it is more important to have an open and inquisitive mind. Can the person learn new things? Are they open to thinking about how to do things in different ways? Are they inquisitive about new business processes and functional areas of responsibility? I want people who have the ability to learn and the desire to learn. I don't need people who already "know it all" because they aren't open to re-thinking things in a different context.
I recruit people who are excellent communicators and relationship builders. To be effective we need to create an environment of partnership and collaboration. I need people who can flourish in an environment where you accomplish things through influence and communication not through “brute force” or the weight of your position.
I also want to surround myself with leaders who have a passion for developing people and supporting their success. I'm interested in team leaders not dictators. I need people who can be seen as members of the team and contributors to their people's success.
Perhaps most importantly, I need people who fit into the kind of culture I am trying to build and maintain. I have witnessed over the years that the worst hires are people who simply don't fit into the organizational culture you are trying to create. I'm not a fan of "lone wolves." I want people who can work as part of a team and check their egos at the door.
I also want people who are willing to subjugate their personal agenda for the team's agenda. No one person, no matter how talented, is bigger or more important than the team. It takes a certain type of personality to debate their perspective but be willing to align around the team's decision even if it doesn't jibe with the way they would do things.
Finally, I want to surround myself with people who have the integrity and the intestinal fortitude to tell me when I'm wrong or full of boloney. The biggest risk a leader has is that he or she becomes somewhat separated from the reality of what happens at a grass roots level. I need people to tell me when the emperor has no clothes, so that we can address challenges early on before they become disasters.
It isn’t a short list, but people who fit that description make excellent leaders for your department. What do you think? Have I forgotten any traits you think are important? Do you think my standards are too high? Comment below.