Testing the Pulse of a Leader Candidate…or Ourselves

…you are offering a candidate a fertile, non-judgmental opportunity to convey their ability to take on a leader’s two primary responsibilities: define reality, and be a role model of healthy action. The best leaders will be grateful for the invitation

Steve Roberts black ink drawing: fancy bow tie, shirt collar and star at third eye

Any thoughts on how to interview someone to be CEO?  

That question came my way after the chief a large company had recently hired (and spent the usual oodles in the process) just wasn’t the right fit.  It was my favorite kind of question: one I’d not been asked before, and one from which any of us might learn in our quest to know a job candidate, or just about anyone really, at a level greater than skin deep.  Even ourselves.

Consider this, I suggested.

Say to a candidate: “We’d like you to come back as soon as you’re ready and give us a presentation in whatever form you feel is most effective in response to a question we’ll share with you in a moment.  After your presentation, please be prepared to respond to follow-up questions, beginning with why you feel your presentation is your strongest possible response at this time to our request.  The question we’d like you to address is this: What has been the turning point of your life, and how does that event relate to the other major life circumstances that have been most influential in shaping who you are?

Then I explained.

It seems from what you’ve said about your experience with the CEO who didn’t work out that you weren’t able to determine well enough ahead of time how that person would approach almost any situation.  To make such an assessment, I would think you’d want to develop a pretty good sense of how a candidate learns from his or her experiences––and how that ability relates to the core operating principles and practices of their life.  That’s the problem you’re trying to solve, it seems to me, and you’re being respectful of the candidate by giving him or her both the responsibility for solving it, and guidelines to help them do so.   

The good news is, no matter how the candidate responds, they will reveal how well they know themselves and how that awareness manifests itself in any aspect of their life you care to explore with them: from how they might fire someone to whether they deserve a special parking spot.  Furthermore, having to organize and articulate their insights provides you another window into their self-awareness and their ability to communicate in a manner that is emotionally positive, meaningful and memorable. 

Perhaps most importantly, you are offering a candidate a fertile, non-judgmental opportunity to convey their ability to take on a leader’s two primary responsibilities: define reality, and be a role model of healthy action.  The best leaders will be grateful for the invitation.   

And since we’re all the leader of our own life….

 

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth