Picking a leader

As the Tory leadership contest continues, with the 11 potentials whittled down to 5.. I’ve been thinking about the challenge of ‘choosing’ your own leader

When you think about it, it’s not a position many of us find ourselves… We rarely get to ‘select’ our line manager or the person we report to.  We may be asked for our perspective via enlightened recruitment processes, or during 360 degree feedback mechanisms…. but how would you fair in selecting a leader?

What criteria would you use?  Would you pick someone who brought out the best in you, who complemented your skill set, who questioned your preconceptions, knowing that would make for great results but a more challenging working environment?  Or would you pick your mirror image, someone with the same preferences and thought mechanisms as you, a leader with similar background and experiences .. knowing you could slip into a comfortable working rhythm quickly and efficiently?

How well could you objectively rate someone else’s capability to lead?  According to Buckingham and Goodall, in their work ‘Nine Lies About Work‘, one of the biggest corporate lies is that ‘people can reliably rate other people’  (Lie Number 6)

Think about some of the ‘poor’ recruitment choices you may not have made, but have experienced working with.  Did the recruiter deliberately make a ‘bad’ choice?  Unlikely.  The poor recruitment choice is much more likely to have been an inability to rate effectively the capability of others

Clearly the 5 leadership hopefuls in the Tory party race all believe and are presenting themselves as having the attributes, skills, values and behaviours to be the ‘best’ leaders.  So how can those with the responsibility for selecting a leader make a great choice?

I’d recommend not looking through a competency lens, or an experience lens, or a whole set of rating criteria.  Instead, the question for me is ‘can this man (they are all male) balance the three tensions of leadership?’

  • are they authentic to themselves?
  • will they deliver results?
  • are they in service of others?

Regardless of preference, experiences, similarities and differences, I think confidence in your choice would stand stronger scrutiny using this criteria

How would you choose?