The title of this post might seem like a straightforward question, but it’s actually addressing several complex concepts. In order to answer this question, we need to ask several more: why can a leader succeed in one organization but fail in another? What external factors influence leadership? And out of a sea of great leaders, how do you select the best one for your company’s particular needs? Furthermore, one of the most difficult dilemmas is when an organization is thinking about hiring a leader when that leader failed at their last company.
The answer to most of these questions is leadership fit. Leadership fit is why a good leader can crash and burn when brought into a new organization. It’s also why understanding your organization’s core mission and values are essential to selecting a leader that will drive success. About 40% of new leaders fail in the first 18 months on the job. Let’s look at some aspects of leadership fit that can help to address these issues.
Leadership Fit: The Basics
Background and definition
The idea of fit has been around for a long time in the workplace, but only recently has it begun to receive the attention it deserves. Motivational fit can be understood as the extent to which an employee’s expectations of the job match up with what the organization is actually offering. Leadership fit, then, is a similar idea: the extent to which a leader’s expectations of the job match up with what kind of leadership opportunities the organization is offering.
Example: If a leader values spending time with their team (e.g., strategizing, collaborating, building rapport, etc.) but the job requires them to spend the majority of their time putting out fires or being out of the office, that would be an example of poor fit. However, a leader who likes their autonomy and sees the constant moving targets as challenging would be a better fit.
ROI of Fit
The symptoms of poor leadership fit include job dissatisfaction and increased turnover risk. While these may seem like manageable issues, the ROI of leadership fit is actually staggering when we think of the average span of a person’s employment.
Example: There are many estimates of how much money leadership turnover costs organizations. The most common estimate we have seen is 2.5 times their annual salary. This is a huge cost for companies if they have turnover issues in their leadership ranks.
…But What About Their Skills and Experience?
Can-do versus will-do
Of course, a leader’s knowledge, skills, and abilities are all important factors in their effectiveness. But, this is only one side of the coin. Research consistently shows that what a person can do is different from what they will do. In other words, a person may be capable of being an effective leader in many different organizations, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will be.
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