Successful leaders exhibit certain characteristics

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Selecting the right is one of, if not the most, critical factors of an organization success. Today's fast growing economy demands an organization's leader to be equipped with a set of skills and knowledge to face this challenge and blend the new ways of leadership with olds. Considering the involved risk in leadership failure, selecting the right leader is unavoidable challenge for any organizations. McCool (2008) suggests that successful leaders exhibit certain characteristics, experience, sound judgment, strategic vision and higher degree of fitness with an organization's culture. Smalley (2009) argues that a leader's characteristics must be considered as a primary factor in executive success. Tichy and Bennis (2007) argue that an excellent judgment is essence of a leadership "With good judgment, little less matters. Without it, nothing else matters" (p.5). Also, Bank (2009) suggests that past success is critical to an executive future success. Meanwhile, some other studies suggest that effective leaders tend to be flexible and are able to demonstrate higher degree of fitness within an organization. Considering these different perspectives and acknowledging that there are a limited number of suitable individual, the process of executive selection tend to be complicated (Lawler & Finegold, 1997).

The process of executive recruitment begins with assessing the nature of an organization including culture, values, environment, future goals and strategies and other factors that define its unique identity. Answering this question is critical to the rest of selection process since it allows the organization to represent its core values and cultures and look for candidates whom their qualities math with its needs. As Ralin (2009) suggested selecting an executive not a matter of skills and professionalism, but the best fit between the organization and the prospective CEO. The next step after clarifying the organizations' internal characteristics (culture, needs, strategies) along with external its characteristics (industry ranking, regularity environment), is defining a detailed job related to these characteristics ( Sessa and Taylor, 2000).

A comprehensive job analysis for executive position defines the nature of the job, its position in the organization, its relationship to other positions and required responsibilities according to the organization's goals and strategies. A study by Sessa, Taylor and Campbell (1998) suggested that a detailed analyzed job description aids candidates to have a realistic understanding of the nature of the job and will also be useful in evaluating executive future achievements. Comparing the newly defined job requirements with current leadership positions, make it possible to evaluate the candidates based on the organization's future needs and strategies rather than past or current organizational goals. An accurate and carefully designed job description based on the organization needs is the fundamental step for defining the candidates' requirements.

Sessa and Taylor (1998) divided the candidates' requirements into two main categories: soft-side requirements (abilities and personal characteristics and styles) and hard-side (knowledge and skills, job experience). These requirements are developed by carefully analyzing the organization's needs and the job description. Prospective candidates' qualities must be evaluated and be compared with these requirements in order for them to be identified as the best fit. This matching process which involves the gathering and using the information is the most critical step of the whole process. There are a number of various tools that can be used in the executive selection process including: questionnaires and interviews (situational and behavioral), resumes and references, assessment centers, 360 degree feedback assessment. Selectors tent to use a combination of these tools in order to achieve the best results. However, the most widely trusted tool has been the candidates' interview (Sessa et al., 1998). While these assessment tools seems to be helpful, there are factors that needs to be considered in order to achieve the best result. Hollenbeck (2009) argued that executive selection decisions are often wrong due to the application of incorrect models which are designed for managerial selection at lower levels. Ones (2009) suggest that the selection process should focus on evaluating of the traits that are relevant to the performance. Howard (2007) by questioning the integrity of the tools argued against the use of multi-rater instruments for leader selection, when candidates are ranked by their subordinates and peers. In another study Fernandez-Araoz (1999) argued that resumes and references can be inflated by exaggerating past success and minimizing the failures. Therefore, best practices in the use of executive assessment tools propose that selectors use a combination of different tools, and give enough thought to where in the sequence of executive recruitment their use would be most helpful.

Regardless of chosen assessment tools, another important factor that must be considered is the decision making process employed by individuals in charge of making the final decisions. Unlike the selectors at the lower level of an organization who are mainly consisted human resource managers, at the upper levels, decisions are mainly made by CEO, board members, senior executives or other people with little experience of selection. Hollenbeck (2009) argues that factors such as absence of I/O psychologists and following the wrong model have result in failure in the final decision. Sesas and Taylor (2000) suggested that executive groups make better decisions than individual executives. In other words, a group of selectors (or the selection committee) is necessary in ensuring the chosen leader's success. Once good, balanced data on each candidate is collected, an experienced selection committee tends to make more accurate decision by using both rational and intuitive process.

Another important factor that must be carefully considered is the decision of executive selection committee about where to look for executive candidates. Sessa et al. (1998) stated regardless of qualification of internal candidates, executives tent to recruit external candidates (57%). Reviews of past studies indicate that a selection committee from a successful organization tends to select internal candidates. However when an organization are not successful and there is a need to change its overall strategy, external candidates are more likely to be favored (Howard, 2001).

There are also other factors that must be considered in order to increase the likelihood of the selection success. Smith (2009) suggests that the process of executive selection should be seen as more of a strategic business decision rather than a human resource process. Baughman (2009) suggested that in order to make a better decision in selecting the executive, it is critical to view selection as a dynamic and extended decision making process; success is predictable and value-based individual differenced along with past performance results can be used as a guide for predicting future success. Once the selection has been made and candidates has agreed to join the organization, they must be integrated, supported with the understanding that it make take up more than a year for them to master the position. No matter how good the selection process, the likelihood of failure is much higher unless the individual is properly integrated into the system (Sessa and Taylor, 2000).