C-Suite Potential: Why The Best Executives Don't Play To Their Strengths
Clarke Murphy, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
The Forbes article, “C-Suite Potential: Why The Best Executives Don't Play To Their Strengths,” looked at three common mistakes organizations make when selecting leaders. Among those errors: relying on intuition; focusing on strengths without considering weaknesses; and ignoring the current context. The piece was co-written by Russell Reynolds Associates CEO Clarke Murphy and Hogan Assessments CEO Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. The article is excerpted below.
Scientists from various fields have spent the past 100 years trying to identify the key ingredients of leadership potential. While the list of qualities they have highlighted is rather extensive, there are really just a few universal characteristics that consistently contribute to better leadership performance, namely good judgment, people-skills, integrity, and drive. Indeed, in any field of leadership – from professional sports to politics, the military, and business – individuals will be better able to build and maintain high-performing teams when they are competitive but honest, and when they are experts not only in their subject matter, but also in dealing with people.
The problem, however, is that very few people have all of these qualities. And those who do are not always considered for leadership positions, even though they should be. This explains the relatively low baseline for competent leadership, which has been estimated at around 30%. In a perfect world, leadership would be a resource for the group – a process of positive influence that empowers individuals to perform as a team or coordinated unit. Yet in the real world most people are disenchanted with (if not traumatized by) their bosses. Employee engagement surveys suggest that around 70% of people are unhappy at work, open to new job opportunities, or contemplating self-employment, mostly because they are fed up with their direct line managers. Perhaps more worryingly, organizations appear to be aware of the problem, but they are wasting an enormous amount of resources trying to solve it. For example, in the U.S. alone, annual spending on leadership development interventions doubled from $7 to $14 billion in the last 15 years, yet people’s confidence in their leaders has declined steadily during the same time period.
Clearly, if organizations were able to select the right leaders, they would not need to waste so much money (and time) trying to train them. However, in order to do selection right, they will first need to address three common mistakes:
1. Over-reliance on intuition: Most people feel they are a good judge of character, but very few actually are. In fact, even trained interviewers are likely to be fooled by candidates in short-term interactions, mistaking confidence for competence, and narcissism for charisma. Instead of playing by ear, recruiters and decision-makers must learn to distrust their instincts and opt instead for a data-driven approach to measuring leadership potential. To determine what they need, they should inspect robust normative benchmarks for representative top performers. To assess those qualities in potential candidates, they should rely on scientifically-defensible psychometric tools and carefully-designed structured interviews. Most people know how to judge expertise from a resume, but the softer competencies underlying leadership talent are best inspected with reliable and valid tools, and in most instances it will be trained experts using those tools that will produce the most accurate candidate profile (as opposed to experts or tools alone).
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