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How Do You Assess a Candidate’s Leadership Potential?

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There’s an old saying that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. That idea holds true when you’re trying to assess a candidate’s leadership potential. You have to start with a clear picture of what leadership means to you and, more importantly, what it means in your organization.

Many organizations have leadership competency models that purport to describe the key characteristics and behaviors that they seek in their leaders. The problem with many of these models is that they are so full of jargon and clichés that they don’t provide much in the way of useful guidance.

Having looked at dozens of these models over the years, I can make it simple for you. Leadership behaviors fall into one of two broad categories – the behaviors that drive results and the behaviors that build relationships. Both categories are equally important for long-term success. The most successful leaders exhibit both in abundance.

Here are some questions in each of those two categories to keep in mind when assessing a candidate’s leadership potential:

Driving Results

  • How well does the candidate understand which results matter most and why they do?
  • How skilled is the candidate in establishing goals that lead to results?
  • What demonstrated experience does the candidate have in creating plans that achieve goals?
  • What is the candidate’s demonstrated capacity to operate in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world?
  • Bonus question: Do they operate as a lifelong learner?

Building Relationships

  • What is the candidate’s track record in connecting with a diverse range of people?
  • How good is the candidate at coaching others to higher levels of performance?
  • How likely is the candidate to collaborate with peers to create boundary spanning results?
  • How skilled is the candidate in influencing powerful people to adopt a preferred course of action?

If you agree that it all comes down to driving results and building relationships, what other questions would you add to assess a candidate’s leadership potential in either of those categories?

This post originally ran on the Monster Thinking blog.

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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