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What Makes a Great Leader? It Depends On Your Organization

February 2, 2018

iStock-637080884.jpgThere is more to a job than just winning. A great example of a leader who came to that realization is David Blatt. In January of 2016, Blatt was coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team of the NBA. In the middle of the season, while his team was leading the Eastern Conference with an impressive record of 30-11 (30 wins and 11 losses), he was fired. The general manager, David Griffin, explained that the separation was due to a lack of fit. A coach who performs at the highest level and is successful based on, arguably, the most important objective metric in professional sports (wins), can still lose his job. Maybe winning isn’t everything after all.

Few people love to work for someone they don’t respect. Whether you are a player on a sports team or an employee at an organization, you want to work for someone who has your best interest at heart. Good leaders will instill this confidence in their employees whether it is true or not. Great leaders, however, will actually have your best interest at heart. Great leaders will also understand the dynamics of their job and the jobs of those they supervise. They will understand the company culture and how to best represent and cultivate it. Great leaders have the potential to take a struggling company and make it successful or take a good company and make it an industry leader.

Identify the Great Leaders

Since every organization is different, it is important to realize that what makes a great leader depends on the organization. When considering a leadership selection tool, there are many points to consider:

  • The Level of Leadership

    You’ll want to understand the level of leadership in order to get an assessment that meets the needs of that leadership role. For example, you'll want a different tool for managers, directors, and executives. 

  • A Job Analysis 

    The tasks, jobs, traits, characteristics, or competencies that are most valuable to the leadership position can be identified through a job analysis. There are many ways to conduct a job analysis: focus groups, observation, previous job analyses, and more. However, since leadership positions are more unique, interviews with employees who have held the same position in the past, as well as interviews with direct supervisors may be ideal. Surveys can also be given to subject matter experts to get a quantified rating of competencies that are most important for the leadership role.

  • Your Company Culture

    Culture can also affect your selection tool. You can send a message to job candidates about the culture of the company through self-rating questions that tap into key values of the organization.

  • Your Location

    Location can affect the size of your applicant pool. For example, if your company is headquartered in the small college town of Waco, Texas, the applicant pool of well experienced leaders might be much smaller than if headquarters was in downtown Houston, Texas.

  • Your Industry 

    Industry will influence the type of leadership selection tool you would like to use. For example, if there is a manager position to be filled in call center, sales and customer focus might be key competencies to tap into for an online selection assessment. When you hire a leader for and R&D team, the priority of sales and customer focus knowledge and skill will likely change significantly.

    (Related: How Important is Industry Experience when Hiring Leaders?)

  • Methodology

    Methodology, or more specifically, hiring assessment methodology is important to understand before making a decision on an assessment in your hiring process. Many assessments offer different approaches to how they measure different competencies. Self-report questions are one of the most popular methods for understanding personal beliefs of an individual. An example of this type of item could ask applicants to rate from one to five (one being Strongly Disagree, and five being Strongly Agree) how much they agree with the following statement: I enjoy delegating tasks to others.

    Another method to gain information from applicants is to include a situational judgement item. This is especially useful for selecting leaders because you can see how they might respond to different situations that are relevant to the target leadership position. Other methods might include math questions, behavioral frequency, and simulations.

There are many different approaches to hiring assessments, but a multi-method approach including all or most of these methods is most effective. Whether your company is thriving with great leadership or lacking in great leadership, there is always room for improvement. At any rate, leaders should not be measured on one single metric (e.g., winning), instead there are many facets to great leadership. In order to select the right leader for your organization, keep in mind these many facets and the different points to consider when hiring your next great leader.

Read more about Leadership Assessments in our whitepaper, Leadership Assessments: How to Choose the Right One for Your Organization.

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Trevor McGlochlin Trevor McGlochlin is a Research Consultant at PSI. He leads the Financial and Automotive verticals within R&D. He earned a Master of Science degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology. His areas of expertise include selection, employee turnover, organizational development, applied research, and statistical analyses. His analysis work is centered around validation, adverse impact, turnover analyses, assessment scoring, and other data analysis.