What Employers Really Want: Leadership

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This is one of a series of posts based on LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions’ Guide: 30 Behavioral Interview Questions to Identify High-Potential Candidates.

Here’s the list of the qualities managers value:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Culture add
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth potential
  6. Prioritization

Leadership is a slippery concept. It’s not strictly confined to actual leaders of a company; we hope to see it at all levels of an organization. That means it’s an important quality to spot early – leadership potential is more valuable to the company in the long run than technical skills. But how do you define it?

I found a great list pf leadership qualities on the website of Queensland, Australia’s small business site. Here’s what it says:

Though different leadership styles can be used at different times in a business, some character traits are important for all leaders:

  • self-awareness – understanding your own strengths and weaknesses
  • decisiveness – the ability to make decisions quickly
  • fairness – treating others equally
  • enthusiasm – motivating a team with a positive attitude
  • integrity – earning the respect of your team
  • knowledge – keeping abreast of the facts and figures
  • creativity and imagination – coming up with new and innovative ideas
  • endurance – persevering when things go wrong.

It’s as good a list as I’ve ever seen. How can you interview to uncover these qualities?  Here are the questions managers suggested to determine leadership.

  • Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
  • Give me an example of a time when you felt you led by example. What did you do and how did others react?
  • Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.

I would add these:

  • What do you do at work on a regular basis that’s not part of your job description?
  • Tell me about a time something went wrong at work and you took over. What happened?
  • Tell me about the first time in your career you thought of yourself as a leader.

If a candidate has no answer for these questions, he or she hasn’t yet adopted a leadership mindset. That’s the essential first step to true leadership. John Maxwell once said: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” None of those actions requires a manager’s title on a business card.

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