By Nick Davis, Business Psychologist in London and Director at Davis Associates

Regardless of what the position may be, the best hiring managers always have long-term objectives in mind when recruiting. Far from simply hiring for past credentials or existing skills, it is vital that we also consider recruiting and selecting those with great leadership potential. In this way, we safeguard our companies and lay the groundwork for a stronger, more capable organisation for the years to come.

The benefits of having a number of employees with strong leadership qualities on board are clear. Leaders are passionate, are excellent communicators, have incredible focus and have a contagious confidence to inspire and motivate those around them.

However, it isn’t enough to simply wish to have leaders on your team. During the recruitment and selection process, HR executives and hiring managers need to know the best ways to spot a potential leader, as well as how to nurture these individuals to live up to their potential.

Psychometric testing is highly reliable

Psychometric testing is often used as part of recruitment assessment. The popularity of psychometric testing can be seen by the fact that approximately 80% of the Fortune 500 companies and 75% of the UK Times 100 companies make use of them. Objective tests have been shown to lead to an 18% increase in new hire performance and 47% increase in hiring manager satisfaction. These tests can be carried out to assess a candidate’s personality, skills and attributes.

Psychometric tests are a great way to determine leadership potential, empathy levels and emotional intelligence. If you are searching for potential leaders, you might want to explore what the candidate’s motivations are, what their team impact is and how able they are to communicate, influence others and generate their own ideas.

It should be noted that although psychometric testing can be tremendously valuable and reliable, they are often misused by non-reputable service providers or untrained employees. Organisations should be aware that there are a huge array of psychometric tools on the market, the reliability and validity of which vary remarkably. Care should be taken to hire a service that will provide the appropriate solution for your company’s needs. Highly qualified business psychologists will be able to appropriately harness these tools for the benefit of your organisation.

Ask the right questions during the interview stage

If you are looking for a future leader, the right questions need to be asked during the formal interview stage. Determine whether the candidate has willingly taken on leadership positions in the past. This can be a leadership position in either their private or professional lives. Hiring managers will soon get a clear idea as to whether the individual in question is one to proactively take charge of a situation, or if they’re someone who is happy to take a back seat and be instructed.
Ask candidates about the last time they truly challenged themselves with daunting responsibilities or tasks. Candidates with leadership abilities are often trying new things, experimenting and taking calculated risks. These are exactly the types of go-getters that will bring value to any organisation.

Assessment centres can be used to compare candidates

Many companies often use assessment centres as the final stage of recruitment. They are particularly useful when organisations have a number of seemingly fit and equal candidates for a given position. Assessment centres allow hiring managers to directly compare and contrast each candidate against the other. Tasks can be allocated and managers will be given the opportunity to observe behaviour. If a company is seeking leadership potential, notes should be taken regarding who is taking charge of a given situation.

Who is inspiring and motivating the rest of the group? Who is able and skilled at articulating and communicating ideas? Who is demonstrating intimidating or unhelpful behaviour? This may be the only time managers are able to witness how candidates interact and work with others, which will prove to be invaluable information when it comes to making the final recruitment decision.

Humility and acceptance are great indicators of leadership

Throughout the recruitment process, remember that although confidence is integral to a potential leader, so is humility. You don’t want someone on team who is unwilling to accept responsibility and pass the blame, should a task go wrong. Great leaders hold themselves responsible for failures. Rather than seeing a failure as a total loss, they will use it as a learning experience and grow from it. Equally, a great leader won’t dwell on the failures of their team. They will simply act to redeem the situation and turn things around. Attention should be paid to the language candidates use about past ‘failures’. Their responses to these incidences will tell hiring managers a lot about their attitudes and leadership potential.

Harnessing and developing leadership skills

Once you have made your decision and hired the appropriate candidate, the real work begins. Leaders are not simply born; they develop, grow and adapt. They require support in order to realise their true potential. Leadership development programmes have been known to be hugely beneficial when it comes to encouraging and promoting leadership skills.

Such a programme can help employees develop relevant competencies, as well as teaching them how to cope with change and managerial stress. They can also help employees learn about leadership styles, enabling them to discover which one works best for them and their personalities. After all, no two leaders are alike. Some may be democratic, others more laissez-faire or affiliative, and some are more autocratic. Over time and depending on the need of a particular company and its employees, a great number of leadership styles and qualities may be required for an organisation to truly flourish.

About the Author:

Nick Davis is a Business Psychologist in London and Director at Davis Associates. By applying best practice recruitment assessment, coaching and leadership development Nick has helped clients across the globe achieve greater individual, team and organisational performance.