Hiring Great Leaders; more than Just a Gut Feeling?

Hiring leaders more than gut feeling

A leader’s ability to effectively drive and shape culture can make or break a team, or even an organisation. Remember the last great leader you had? Were you more engaged, willing to go the extra mile to get the job done? Did you have a clear understanding of the purpose of your role?

Great leadership is critical to business outcomes and hiring the right person can significantly enhance productivity, performance and organisational culture. Why then do we so often rely on our ‘gut feeling’ when it comes to hiring the right person for the role?

Ineffective hiring can cost an employer between 50 and 60% of an employee’s salary(1) without taking into account the immeasurable cost to employee engagement, turnover and workplace harmony, with many employee exit surveys citing poor leadership as the number one reason for leaving(1).

So, if you are relying on gut feeling to determine if your hire is going to be a great leader in your organisation, continue at your own risk! But when your candidate is qualified, has great references and is putting their best self forward, how can you ensure they are a great culture fit, mitigate risk and hire with confidence? Here’s some quick fire tips for hiring a great leader:

Define the behaviours you need for success

Clearly defining what success looks like for your organisation is the first step to hiring someone who will align your culture with the greater business goals and strategies of the organisation. For example:

  • What key behaviours do you need?

  • Are you looking for a dynamic and fast paced leader?

  • Do you need someone experienced in dealing with change?

  • Perhaps you’re looking for someone confident implementing structure and strategies and working with diverse teams?

Once you have defined what you are looking for, it’s easier to recruit someone that will align your culture with the greater business goals and strategies of your organisation. You may even be able to identify someone already in your organisation that could be developed into a great leader.

Look beyond qualifications and experience

Skills can be acquired, personality cannot. A candidate may have impressive qualifications, but do they possess those harder to find traits like social sensitivity, empathy and honesty? These attributes are often overlooked but are a key factor in building quality employee relationships and engagement.

Avoiding office psychopaths may be a frequent topic in mainstream media but is often a taboo topic in HR Departments as very rarely does anyone want to admit they made a poor hire. It’s also not a valid reason to terminate employment. While there is no magic formula to identifying this personality type, going beyond the usual characteristics that make great leaders will increase your chances of hiring the right fit for your organisation. 

Use assessment as part of your strategy

If you’re wondering how you are going to identify real authentic traits versus those put on for the sake of an interview, you can’t go past Psychometric Testing as part of your recruitment tool kit. Assessments can show you how the candidate may respond to stressful situations and highlight any potential leadership derailers.

Leadership derailers can include traits which under normal circumstances may be positive, but given stressful situations will turn a team into a hotbed of dangerous negativity. For instance, confidence may turn to arrogance and diligence may present itself as micromanagement and nit-picking. Potentially people purposely hide these traits in the interview process, but often people don’t even know that they have them.

Adequately allocate time and resources

Speeding through the recruitment process is almost guaranteed to result in a poor hire. Conversely, deliberating over minor points and stringing out the process can result in losing that premium candidate. Making sure to define your key attributes, include Psychometric Assessments in the shortlisted applicants and keeping the process streamlined will make sure you hire first time right.

Continue development post-hire

Ongoing development either after hiring or later down the track keeps skills fresh and further enhances the role of your leader in driving culture and engagement. Using tools such as employee surveys and 360° leadership surveys can help to identify what your leader is doing well (or not so well) so you can take a planned approach to ongoing development.

Looking for a clearer view of your talent pool?

Chandler Macleod People Insights utilise their own Gateway, a unique assessment and employee experience platform, giving you access to over 150 world-leading psychometric assessments and surveys. Built by psychologists for business success, Gateway puts the power in your hands to hire with clarity, recognise talent in your organisation and realise the potential of your workforce.


Tracey, J. B., & Hinkin, T. R. (2008). Contextual factors and cost profiles associated with employee turnover, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 49(1), 12-27, Gordon, K. (2008) Poor recruitment decisions – What is the cost impact to the organisation?

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