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Selecting Leaders Who Can Lead is Not a Black Art

Selecting Leaders Who Can Lead is Not a “Black Art”

How many times has your organisation recruited non-leaders for leadership positions?

Whilst typical senior C Suite executives last four years in their role, many recruits do not last anything like as long. Ramsey Hall & The Occupational Psychology Group (OPG) have worked extensively with clients who have come to recognise that many leadership appointments fail because of the poor leadership competencies of the chosen candidate who, in some cases, will actually damage organisational performance.


Leadership skills are a scarce resource that can be a source of organisational competitive advantage when recruiting for business-critical roles. Most candidates simply do not have the attributes needed for effective leadership.

In our experience true leaders:

  1. Demonstrate an ability to involve and engage teams through empowerment and employee inclusion
  2. Are effective at transformational and transactional leadership behaviours
  3. Are excellent at network leadership beyond immediate reports
  4. Have the drive and energy to inspire and succeed
  5. Are creative and innovative
  6. Are ambitious not just for themselves but also both for their team and for the wider organisation

Yet, many leadership hires simply do not demonstrate these competencies but, instead, behave in almost the opposite ways. Indeed, many individuals demonstrate destructive leadership because they are disengaging and uninspiring. Such “leaders” can actually cause serious damage to morale and performance across the whole organisation.

Attracting Leadership Talent Rather Than Just Leadership Candidates

Effective executive recruitment is about being really selective as to whom you hire. Typically, organisations tend to recruit on past success or on an individual’s “Craft Skills”. This is equally true of external and of internal hiring, yet in our experience, it is a fundamentally flawed approach.

Most employers are able to attract high volumes of candidates for senior hires but only a fraction of the applicants will have the potential needed to thrive at the senior level.

Attracting leadership talent, therefore, requires an objective and detailed approach which balances the need for a candidate to have a successful track record with the need for them to have the leadership skills required in modern organisations. One without the other will simply fail.


We recommend:

I. Establishment of a comprehensive recruitment brief, including a clear job description and a person specification that is aligned with corporate strategy, values, and competencies.

II. Design of a comprehensive attraction process including executive search and advertising where appropriate. The key to successful attraction is to cast as wide a net as possible. It is essential to avoid hiring friends or people you know just to avoid cost and effort.

III. A rigorous selection process that includes depth feedback interviews, psychometric assessment, and business simulation exercises.

IV. Insisting on a shortlist of at least four qualified candidates.

V. Rigorous candidate due diligence including professional references and background checks on the selected candidate

Hiring Leadership Talent for the Long Term whilst Reducing Business Risk

Whether you are hiring from internal or external talent pools, it is essential to hire a strong leadership talent for the longer term, someone who can save enormous organisational resources whilst at the same time can help to build organisational performance.

There is no doubt that hiring at the senior level can be very risky if handled badly. However, investing time and modest financial resources at the hiring stage will invariably reduce the chance of a failed hire.

As an Organisation Can You Afford to Have Bad Leaders?

If not, why not contact me to discuss the ways in which Ramsay Hall and the OPG can help you.  Simply click here to get in touch.

Phil Boyle
Managing Director

Phil Boyle, BSc(Eng) MSc CEng FRAeS MIET, has over 30 years in executive recruitment and is widely recognised as one of the UK’s most experienced and successful headhunters.

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