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Hire your Next Leaders using Leadership Skills Tests

Posted by Michael D. Haberman


leadership

Article after article over the past several years has talked about the crisis in leadership. Whether it is in politics or in business, people are less than happy with their leadership. One study revealed, “Less than a quarter of people see leaders as effective, while just 13% think their leaders take appropriate responsibility.” Another study revealed, “Our latest global leadership research confirmed the suspicions of many in the industry: that an exclusive reliance on formal programs for leadership development is one of the causes of the current dearth of available leadership talent.” With an increase with women in the workplace and the need for empathy in the workplace, how does a company respond to these issues in the selection of future leaders?

Leadership assessments

Unlike the dearth of actual leaders, there is no dearth in leadership skills tests or assessment. There are numerous “quickie” assessments available that in 8 to 10 questions can make a determination if someone has the skill set needed. The “Eight-Minute Test That Can Reveal Your Effectiveness as a Leader” as outlined in the Harvard Business Review explains that such a “quickie” test can reveal whether a candidate has any propensity toward leadership at all.

Other organizations use much fuller assessments to determine if employees or candidates have the needed leadership potential. The Office of Personnel Management for the United States government has an extensive array of leadership assessments dealing with different areas. They look at:

  • Fundamental competencies: interpersonal skills, written communication, oral communication, integrity/honesty, continual learning, public service motivation
  • Leading change: creativity & innovation, external awareness, flexibility, resilience, strategic thinking, vision
  • Leading people: conflict management, leveraging diversity, developing others, team building
  • Results driven: accountability, customer service, decisiveness, entrepreneurship, problem-solving, technical credibility
  • Business acumen: financial management, human capital management, technology management
  • Building coalitions: partnering, political savvy, influencing/negotiating

Fundamentals of leadership

There is a fundamental set of skills that almost everyone agrees upon are necessary for leadership assessments. These include:

  1. Leadership potential (tactical and inspirational leadership)
  2. Execution and delivery (driving results)
  3. Emotional intelligence and collaboration
  4. Learning ability and strategic thinking
  5. Adaptability and leading change

Making off the cuff or “gut” feel determinations of someone’s leadership skills is a risky venture in today’s world. Given the financial success and the livelihood of every employee depends on the ability of company leadership you don’t really want to rely on gut feelings. That is why assessments are so important. But canned assessments may not capture everything in determining whether someone is the next company manager, VP, or CEO. There is something called context that is also important.

Context

According to author Keith Gibson, writing in eLearningIndustry.com:

When a company implements a leadership training initiative, they shouldn’t lose sight of the context of the workplace, the workers, and the work overall. Why do they need to address the context in leadership training? Because leadership training fails when it tries to churn out the same type of leader for every situation.

Thus in your assessment of current employees for their leadership potential you have to consider the context in which they have been working and learning. How do you assess this? Certainly not in a canned assessment! You need to be able to customize an assessment to not only take advantage of the multitude of questions available on leadership skills and abilities but to also evaluate people based on your particular contextual situation. Leadership guru Victor Vroom stressed in his leadership theory the importance of context. He said, “Different kinds of organizations, different kinds of challenges, and different kinds of decisions require different leadership styles.” This is taught in every Strategic Human Resources Management class. Gibson said, “Leadership training can teach general principles, but it then should teach leaders to assess different situations so he or she can implement the best strategy.” Having an assessment that can identify skills associated with your particular situations would be a great addition.

Customization

The ability to ask your own questions is important. Perhaps you want to know:

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to complete a task you had never done before.
  2. How do you come up with ideas? When do you feel the most inspired?
  3. How would you persuade people to do what you want?
  4. How would you track the performance of your employees?

These questions are relevant to the context in which people will be leading. Once again Keith Gibson says:

Addressing context in leadership training matters because leaders come in different packages, and one size does not fit all. Leadership training shouldn’t be trying to create the best overall leader, but the best leader for a specific environment or situation. This can be implemented by encouraging at least part of the leadership training to be held in an on-the-job situation where context is always present. eSkill assessments allow you to customize your assessments in order to include contextual questions.

Resources and conclusion

In his blog on leadership, Dan McCarthy offers a number of resources on assessment tools. It is a good place to start your search, naturally after you have looked at eSkill. Effective leadership is not something you want to leave to chance. As your current leadership team retires, start the selection process for the future by using an effective leadership skills assessment.

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Screening your candidates effectively can save your company a lot of time and money spent hiring the wrong people. It can also greatly increase your chances of hiring the kind of top-quality employees who can add significantly to your company profits over the long term. Follow these seven steps to help ensure that the ROI for your next hire rises to the top of the charts.

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About Michael D. Haberman

Author

Michael D. Haberman is Vice-President and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc., a consulting and services company offering complete Human Resources solutions. As the former founder and President of MDH Consulting, a Human Resources consulting firm, Mike has more than 35 years of experience in Human Resources, and he uses his broad-based background to help companies solve employee problems and deal with governmental compliance.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Maria J. May, 23, 2017

    Recruiting is not an exact science. You can’t “test” your way to hiring people with strong leadership skills. I advise your hiring team to focus on a candidate’s leadership track record. Ask each candidate to relate how they demonstrated leadership in various scenarios during their job history.

  • James P May, 23, 2017

    Prior to the interview, have your team develop specific examples that relate to the job at hand. For example, the position being interviewed for may be a production supervisor in a manufacturing facility that has a poor quality record. During the interview session, have your team probe candidates to discuss their history at solving similar problems.

  • Karol S. May, 23, 2017

    Organizations use a variety of assessment tests or tools to attempt to determine leadership as well as other personality traits in candidates. Overall, the results are very mixed. I think a well-designed or customizable leadership assessment test will do the trick to find those skills.

  • Michael Haberman May, 25, 2017

    It is not a matter of testing. Testing implies right or wrong answers. Assessment is a better term and you can assess people’s abilities to determine if they are at a level you find acceptable.

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