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How to Hire a Leader: 6 Skills Every Leadership Candidate Needs


In small, medium, and large businesses, in marketing firms and manufacturing plants, leadership is important. Effective leaders understand how to empower their teams and lead their organisations to greatness, which means hiring plenty of leaders can help a business find lasting success.

Unfortunately, true leaders aren’t always easy to identify, which means recruiters sometimes accidentally place followers into positions that need strong and effectual leaders. When recruiting for a leadership role, recruiters can use this guide to help them search out the true leader amongst their applicants.

leadershipSkill #1: Vision

Times change, and business cannot find success with the same strategies forever. Thus, leaders must be able to plan effectively, ensuring their companies growth regardless of how the future unfolds. Recruiters can uncover this leadership skill by searching application materials and asking questions regarding an applicant’s vision. For example, a true leader likely has evidence of improving a previous employer’s prospects with proactive changes to technology or technique. Additionally, leaders can confidently answer questions regarding business direction, providing at least rudimentary plans that take companies in positive directions ― given they have perhaps the most important skill: Communication.

leadershipSkill #2: Communication

Admittedly, communication is a skill that is critical to every position in a business. However, effective communication is even more fundamental for leaders, who will only fail to lead if they cannot effectively explain themselves. Leaders of all levels must communicate a variety of messages ― such as plans, opinions, and feelings ― with a variety of groups ― subordinates, peers, superiors, and clients. Such frequent code-switching requires a mastery of language arts, because not all communication tactics are applicable to all situations.

Fortunately, poor communication skills are incredibly easy to recognise during the application process. Poorly written cover letters, poorly delivered interview answers, and other failures of communication indicate an inability to lead.

leadershipSkill #3: Influence

Perhaps the most important application of the communication skill is in influencing others to complete certain tasks. Leaders must be able to convince others to follow their instructions, and those who cannot will fail to create meaningful change.

Having influence is about more than speaking well; it is about projecting confidence and claiming authority. To test this skill, recruiters must ensure that an applicant is a cultural fit with the rest of the workforce. A drill sergeant might be an effective influencer in some environments, but such forceful leadership might not be valuable in casual startups or progressive workplaces. For this skill in particular, recruiters must match leaders and employers carefully.



Skill #4: Decision-Making

A person makes thousands of decisions every day: what to wear, where to eat, when to sleep, etc. However, leaders make even more, and those choices impact more than themselves. Not everyone is a natural-born decision-maker, but leaders tend to be swiftly decisive ― even if their decisions aren’t necessarily correct. Asking applicants to discuss difficult decisions of the past, their methods of deciding, and the eventual results is a smart way to understand how well they manage this skill. Further, looking for advanced education, like a master’s of organisational leadership, will help recruiters find those trained to make the right choice no matter what.

leadershipSkill #5: Analytics

It isn’t enough to decide; leaders need to be able to understand the ramifications of their decisions so they can continue moving businesses in positive directions. It doesn’t take long to make a choice, but analysing the effects of that choice can take weeks or months. An excellent leader recognises the importance of devoting resources to analysis, regardless of what that analysis reveals about the leader’s decisions.

Intellect is invaluable to leaders for dozens of reasons, but analysis requires above-average mental capabilities. Thus, recruiters should test advanced education credentials with short exams for intelligence. Tools are also invaluable in the analysis process, so asking candidates to list and explain the tools they prefer might reveal their devotion to investigating and evaluating data.

leadershipSkill #6: Adaptable

When an analysis yields less-than-favourable results, a leader must change his or her tactics to steer the business back on course. Adaptation is often a painful process that receives push-back from all sides, but it remains a necessary function of business. Those unwilling to change will usually fail to lead their organisations to success. Applicants’ work experience should reveal an eagerness to modify plans and alter strategies for the betterment of employers. Those who upheld the status quo are not appropriate for leadership positions.

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