What do you look for in a leader?

If you’re like most people, it’s a combination of what you value, what you’ve seen work in the past, and a dash of socialization. By socialization I mean, the influence of your family, your community and even pop culture. Whether it’s “A Few Good Men” or “Mad Men,” we’re all influenced by the leadership models we see, whether on the screen or in real life.

If you’re a hiring manager or you influence promotions, you probably also look at “What’s been successful here in the past?” That’s where things start to get tricky.

The world of work has changed, dramatically. In her best selling book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,” author Liz Wiseman summarizes the tectonic shift in the role of leadership:

“What was once predictable and manageable has become volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. With the explosion of information, for example, doubling every nine months in science and technology, there is simply too much for any one person to know. Consequently, the role of leader has shifted too – moving away from a model where the manager knows, directs, and tells, and toward one where the leader sees, provides, asks and unleashes the capabilities of others.”

Multiplier Leaders, described by Wiseman as “Someone who uses their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them” are a far cry from the past model of being the smartest loudest voice in the room. However, in many organizations, the leadership criteria (official and unofficial) is based on the experiences the people currently in leadership found valuable for themselves.

This means, the conscious and unconscious beliefs about what you need to be a good is often limited.

Most organizations work to recruit a wide diversity of candidates. Yet too often candidates’ screening is based on narrow criteria. I frequently observe organizations bringing in people from different backgrounds, and then asking the candidates “How well have you replicated and proven yourself in the ways our current leaders did?”

The experiences of the current group created the current results. If you want new, better results, you need different types of leaders. Organizations need leaders who collaborate and who can attract and support people with expertise the leader himself does not have. We need resilient leaders, who can bounce back from rejection and failure. Today’s successful leaders model empathy for customers and colleagues, they know how to connect.

If you want to find those kinds of leaders, try asking these 5 questions:

Can y♦ ou tell me about a time when you put your ego aside to help the team succeed?

♦ Describe a time when you coached or supported someone to do something big you yourself could not have done.

♦ Have you ever been marginalized and had to prove your value while maintaining your dignity? What did it teach you?

♦ Have you ever dealt with a challenging situation over and over again? How did you stay resilient?

♦ Have you ever let other people take credit for your work because you knew it was helping the organization move forward?

As you read the above questions ask yourself, would you follow a leader who excelled in these areas? I would.

These types of questions expand the background and definition of leadership. If you want the same results, hire the same people. If you want to be better, expand your thinking.

Lisa McLeod is the author of the best-sellers “Selling with Noble Purpose” and “Leading with Noble Purpose.

(1) comment

Sean Kennedy

"Most organizations work to recruit a wide diversity of candidates." - - This is essentially a false premise. The presumption that diversity brings diverse ideas and methods of problem solving could be resolved by hiring from the current crop of qualified Americans having diverse backgrounds. But "diversity" as used in societies and corporations is used to divide and conquer. It is used to drive down wages, steal human capital from foreign countries and create distrust so the workers don't rise against their masters. How many American-born employees have been directed to train their H-1B replacements? See, Employers really only want the highest skills at the cheapest rate. That the societal fabric is torn is irrelevant.

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