Questions to unearth exceptional leaders

So, you have narrowed down a field of candidates for your organisation’s vacant CEO position to 4 applicants. How does the Selection Committee now decide who they will recommend to the Board?

Usually, this comes down to how well each candidate responds to the questions put to them during a structured formal interview. This makes the quality of the questions critical to the successful outcome of the selection process.

While each Selection Committee will its own “pet” questions, we recommend that there be at least one dealing with the key leadership attributes we would expect a successful CEO candidate to exhibit.

From our experience, candidates need to be quizzed to determine whether they…

… can inspire others?

An organisation has little chance of realising its Vision if the staff and board are not inspired to do so. Sure, a responsibility to inspire others rests with all in leadership, including the Board, but the CEO carries a major portion of the load. People look to the CEO for direction. If they are not totally inspired by the cause, the organisation will suffer.

… act courageously?

Not a requirement that tends to appear in job descriptions, yet leaders are called on daily to commit courageous acts. It takes courage to advocate for your cause; create something new; challenge “the ways it’s always been done”; ask for feedback from your team, admit that you aren’t perfect; seek help; provide honest constructive feedback to a subordinate

… are results driven?

As we are all aware, today’s holy grail in the sector is measurable positive outcomes. To lead an organisation to a position where it achieves these results needs a relentless “can-do” attitude. Good leaders get things done. They also have the determination and stamina to drive on until they reach their goals.

… are adaptable?

Adapting to change is a life skill and leadership imperative. Great leaders are flexible and adaptable, anticipating, steering and responding to change. They also help others face and adapt to change, too.

… can resolve conflict?

All great leaders will be able to resolve conflicts quickly, fairly and efficiently. The need for this trait is probably amplified in the not for profit sector due to the often high levels of emotion, number of dispirit stakeholders and subjectivity involved in many key decisions. Tensions among individuals or teams can quickly escalate and have a damaging impact on employee engagement, program delivery and organisational culture.

… are good negotiators?

A good leader must be a good negotiator. To be successful they must be masters at influencing people. Good leaders can negotiate without causing conflict or upsetting anyone and they certainly won’t resort to threats or intimidation.

… are naturally curious?

While curiosity may have killed the cat, it is the hallmark of a great leader. As Evan Hackel observes, outstanding leaders devote their lives “to finding new solutions to old problems, new ways to motivate people, new ways to think and even new ways to behave. While other people seem to think they have found a solution, they can stop looking for new ideas, great leaders tirelessly go on pursuing the new and the better”

… look to develop others?

Great leaders know they can’t achieve things on their own. They have the desire and ability to improve the performance and careers of those around them. These professionals invest in their direct reports, provide coaching, mentoring and guidance and truly relish in the success of a unified team.

When a Selection Committee finds a candidate that responds positively to questions on all these traits, they have taken a giant stride towards recruiting an exceptional leader for their organisation.

As a free service, we have developed a series of interview questions designed to unearth these essential traits. Contact us if you think these might be helpful next time you are looking to recruit a leader in your organisation.  

By Chris Gandy

Chris is the Principal of Cause & Effective. 30 years leadership experience in the not-for-profit sector has convinced Chris that the RIGHT person in the RIGHT role can change the world. He is now focused on helping NFP’s find that RIGHT person to change their world.

Cause & Effective helps great causes find outstanding leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an outstanding leader. To be considered for leadership opportunities with our clients, place yourself on their radar by joining our Cause Leadership Community.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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