One of the Hardest Things About Leadership...Part 4

Wed, 2017-11-08 11:34 -- tomjonez


Through previous Blogs, I have explored the assertion that one of the hardest things to do is to lead the people we serve (read part 1 here, part 2 here and part three here).

Although every leader knows there are no “simple” strategies, I have committed to outlining several essential elements that are adaptable to many organizational contexts.

Last time I explored the need to “Create each role.” This week I examine the next step on a short list, “Recruit the person(s) with the appropriate gift package(s) for each role.” When considering hiring options, it is most important to have a clear target in mind, hence the previous week's emphasis to define the needed role first. Once that is clear, the next step is to seek to fill the position with the best available candidate.

When searching for a candidate fill a specific role, an early mistake for me was to believe – and look for – a person who already had the skills or training needed for the position we had identified.  In my urgency to meet the need, I often overlooked the reality that a highly skilled candidate, in many cases, “acted like it.”  In other words, they had an attitude of superiority and “I-know-how” that eventually caused friction with other members of the team - and ultimately led to supervision challenges as well.  I quickly learned (the hard way) to hire the best attitude first, and then as necessary to provide the appropriate training to upgrade the individual’s skill-set

As I look back on the many mistakes I have made, none is more apparent to me than that personnel issues are the most challenging aspect of leadership. As a result, it became a mantra in our teams to “hire the attitude first," hire the attributes second (skills) and hire the appearance last.  The reason for this priority is that the candidate's appearance is the most straightforward issue to correct, skills are the next most pliable and can improve with appropriate training, and attitude is – by far – the most difficult matter to address and rectify.

In short, once the mission is clear, the role identified and job description described, the next step is to hire the best attitude (of course with as many skills as possible).  After that, the recruit can be trained to fill in any skill-gaps along the way. In my experience, a person with a great attitude will welcome the opportunity to learn more and will bring a positive mindset to the culture of the team.

These are things I have learned from many mistakes – hopefully by passing them along the scar-tissue you develop will be lessened by a degree or two.

Indeed, each of these action steps and the decisions that go with them is a lesson learned the hard way. That is why, in practice, these ideas are only valuable for those who have the Courage to Lead.


Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo