Are you ready for leadership?


I was recently asked a great question, how do you assess for leadership readiness?  Sometimes we hear stories about a super technical expert stepping into a people leadership role who later feels out of their depth, frustrated with their team members who don’t see things the same way as they do and who end up micro-managing team members. So how do you support your team members in their readiness for leadership?

What is leadership readiness?

In my experience, leadership readiness is someone who is aligned both to the business strategy and culture dimensions within the organisation and has a good fit with a specificleadership role. In my work with Barry-Wehmiller, the culture of Truly Human Leadership is a profound contribution to the success of the organisation. 

I reflected on this question and my experiences of working with, developing and coaching leaders across a range of organisations and below I share my reflections with you.

What questions might you ask the individual and the business as you assess an individual’s leadership readiness? 

What is the context for the transition to leadership?

  • An individual contributor to leading others
  • Working through others to developing plans and enabling strategy
  • Strategy execution to strategy formulation and development
  • C-Suite, steward of the business and our people

Where are they now (recognising that leadership readiness will vary, depending on their own leadership journey)?

  • Are they ready, willing and able? Open to change, willing to grow and manage their shadow side?
  • What is their specific context (see above)
  • What are the leadership priorities (in context)
  • What are their capacity / capability gaps?

 Where do they need to get to?

  • What is the acceleration plan for personal leadership growth?
  • What are the sustainability enablers?
  • How do we measure and evaluate progress and success?

What are the steps to assess leadership readiness?       

  1. Have clarity on what you are assessing e.g. combination of performance(degree of success in application of skills, knowledge and experience in achieving results for the business and our people) AND potential(grow into application of a learning mindset and motivation to succeed in your organisation’s defined leadership expectations and attributes) AND readiness(an individual’s fit with specific role).  Essentially are they ready, willing and able to take on the profound responsibility of leadership?
  2. Combine assessment with inventoryof performance and simulation exercisesto assess potential e.g. responses to likely challenges in the next level role. This will help to reveal and address potential gaps and capitalise on strengths.
  3. Hold panel interviewsfor potential leader roles with existing senior leaders across business lines to mitigate over promotion, unconscious bias or promoting in same style as in-situ leadership team. These will need thoughtful preparation and communication of expectations for both interviewer and leadership candidate to set up for success. An example format might include:
  • What is the business case for individual stepping into leader role? What is their understanding of: the business, ideas for future business growth and people growth, broader context of business challenges and issues?
  • What is their true expertise?
  • What organisational defined leadership behaviours do they demonstrate? What  behaviours do you want to see more of?

The use of psychometrics can be very useful for both the individual and organisation in assessing leadership readiness. Many of them assess for ‘hard wired’ attributes that are seldom changed through a training programme. 

On the other hand, in my experience, coaching can help individuals develop a greater degree and depth of self-awareness and opportunity to re-wire thought and behaviour patterns to develop more effective leadership. I have found psychometrics based on ‘drivers’ ‘motivations’ to be valuable in determining leadership readiness e.g. Hogan, EQi and IDI (individual directions inventory) as opposed to equally helpful but less leadership readiness e.g. MBTI, Disc as they reveal more personal style. 

And lastly, a question that is on my mind is ‘how can we create leadership opportunities at an early stage in your team members career so that they are ready when the opportunity arises?’  This may be a variety of experiments, project work, secondments etc. to begin developing leaders today for tomorrow’s opportunities.

If you enjoyed and related to this article on assessing leadership readiness, connect with me on LinkedIn or simply get in touch with me. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

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