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4 Keys to a Great Leadership Strategy

“90 percent of my job is to fail.”

Speaking at an event recently, that’s how the head of a digital company described her job. She was tasked with taking risks on an ongoing basis, with the understanding that only a handful of her initiatives would work, and that this was acceptable. Only this way could her company stay on the leading edge of innovation.

Imagine the head of a big bank telling shareholders the same thing. It would never happen, and neither should it.

My point is that organizational context first and foremost defines what good leadership looks like. The first step in a leadership strategy therefore is understanding where the organization is going and then defining the specific capabilities its leaders need to possess to succeed in that environment and deliver the business strategy.

Recent Hudson research highlighted a sizeable disconnect: 92% of over 100 HR leaders said leadership was very important to businesses yet only 54% of organizations actually had their own clearly articulated leadership strategy. While 90% of those with a strategy had development programs to build leadership capabilities, some key details were missing that would impact the ultimate success of those programs.

To ensure your leadership development programs have the greatest impact, these are the four key components of a strong leadership strategy.

Define what good leadership looks like

The digital company mentioned above was clear about where it was going and how it wanted to achieve that. Risk was acceptable as long as the pay-off was speed and innovation.

Having a well-defined capability framework as the cornerstone of your leadership strategy will ensure your hires, promotions and development programs are all geared towards gaining the specific set of capabilities your organization needs most.

Plan for the future

We’ve heard of businesses using capability frameworks developed almost 10 years ago. To get a sense of how much has changed, think back to the features of the phone you were using in 2005. A lot has changed.

I’d suggest a leadership framework should be updated at least yearly. Just as frequently as an organization is talking about its financial results, it should also be talking about its people and leaders, what’s expected of them and what has changed.

It’s also important to future-proof your business with a leadership pipeline. Do you know how many leaders you will need in the coming years as your organization expands, and with what kinds of skills? Building the talent pipeline takes time and forward planning.

Identify the people you need

When you hire, promote or develop someone, you are taking a bet on them, but there are ways to spin the odds in your favor. Once you have defined the capabilities needed within your organization, it’s time to develop assessment methodologies to understand the development areas of your leaders and evaluate new hires or high potentials. A mix of different methodologies can give the fullest insight.

If your company needs someone with an appetite for risk, for example, that’s what you have to measure. Psychometric tests can provide insights that are proven to predict future behavior. A role playing scenario could also shed light here, by giving candidates a business scenario and looking at which courses of action they choose. Competency-based interviews can also help by asking for specific examples of where the candidate has taken calculated risks.

Develop the capability of your leaders

If organizations are spending big on leadership development programs without a framework targeting their specific needs, they could be developing superfluous or irrelevant skills, or investing in the wrong people for the job, essentially chasing good money after bad.

Highly focused development programs are the most effective. These may be based on real-life strategies, assistance, coaching and feedback – from superiors, peers and external experts. Practical advice that is grounded in real business experience stands the best chance of helping leaders see the world differently, and changing the way they react in different situations.

Returning to the fundamentals of a great leadership strategy, what you need from your leaders should reflect what your organization needs to do. When leaders demonstrate the capabilities the organization needs most, and are supported to continue to improve in this area, this attitude permeates the entire workplace. I’ve watched it happen and it is remarkable: organizations move so much faster toward their end goals, and their people love the ride.

 
 
 

Use Talent Pooling to Strengthen Your Employer Brand

Most businesses are in the midst of a workforce redesign to empower newer, more nimble business models. The HR team must anticipate and keep pace with ongoing business innovations while driving leading-edge talent solutions to meet changing workforce needs and challenges.

Predictive talent pooling provides a hiring approach that blends strategic sourcing, talent pooling and predictive data tools to hire better people in less time and at less expense while meeting many of the newly designed workforce demands.

But no matter how powerful your predictive talent pooling is, high quality candidates aren’t going to jump ship for just any company. Solutions-driven and ambitious, the best of the bunch want to work with you, not for you. These candidates study an employer’s website and presence on channels like Glassdoor, LinkedIn and other social media before responding to a recruiter. Winning them over involves engaging them over time in a positive way, building an employer brand and value proposition that sets your company apart, and ultimately being on the top of their list when the time is ripe.

As the relentless forces of technology and globalization open up new business models and markets while disrupting others, only your talent will keep you ahead of the curve. Proper talent pooling, candidate engagement and employer brand building take time and dedication, but the payoff to the business makes it worthwhile.

Talent pooling helps build your brand.
“While talent pooling for a large client, we found that despite being a dynamic maker of life-saving drugs, the company was not widely known in the industry. Through our talent pool solution, we’ve been able to share their story, sell their unique EVP, provide a real world view of what it is like to work there and also explain how the company makes a positive impact in the world. At first the people we contacted weren’t interested in leaving their current positions, but after engaging them over time, I witnessed highly desirable professionals become active candidates and ultimately accept positions with our client. By providing a richer perspective for these candidates, they not only learned about the positions, but could envision themselves in the roles. This prompted them to take action and engage in the recruitment process.”
--Tony Martin, Americas RPO Leader – Hudson 

Hudson is an RPO specialist experienced in talent pooling. We offer a consistent, accountable and reportable approach to assessing and acquiring talent across your organization, and we work to understand your organization’s long-term strategic hiring needs. Hudson is able to provide the necessary predictive tools and also engage active and passive candidates in your area of specialization. We ensure candidates not only have the skills, but the right motivational and cultural fit to stay engaged long-term.

About Hudson
Hudson is a global talent solutions company with expertise in recruitment process outsourcing, retained search, recruitment consulting and talent management. We help our clients transform their organizations by leveraging our expertise, deep industry and market knowledge, and assessment tools and techniques. Operating in 20 countries through relationships with millions of specialized professionals, we bring an unparalleled ability to match talent with opportunities by assessing, recruiting, developing and engaging the best and brightest people for our clients.

We combine broad geographic presence, world-class talent solutions and a tailored, consultative approach to help businesses and professionals achieve higher performance and outstanding results.

Need help with talent pooling and employer branding? Contact Hudson RPO.

 
 
 

Attributes that Make Star Performers Bad Team Leaders

Have you ever worked for a “bulldozer” boss? Someone so focused on results that they leave a path of anxiety and intimidation in their wake? Or how about a “micro-manager” who leaves their imprint on every office matter while still complaining they have too much work to do?

If you can relate, you have probably seen a leader who is running off the rails. We all know pressure can sometimes bring out the worst in people, but when leaders of organizations lack the self-awareness to manage their negative tendencies, the consequences can be profound.

Hudson research shows over 60% of leadership strategies don’t factor in the risk of new or current leaders derailing1. This is despite 49% of new leaders underperforming when they transition roles2, often causing significant loss to the organization.

Leaders who derail can significantly impact the bottom line due to poor decisions and lost productivity. In a few months they can destroy positive cultures that took years to cultivate. And they can make life miserable for the people who work around them.

This is a shortcoming of many leadership development strategies used today. Most leadership strategies look at high performing leaders and try to isolate the key features that made them successful. They then seek to identify and cultivate those characteristics in emerging leaders.

But what is often lacking is an honest conversation about the character traits that make leaders fail if they aren’t understood and managed.

Why strength-based leadership models are not enough

The problem with looking only at positive character elements—such as being action-oriented or strong on empathy—is there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all leader. Different personalities will thrive depending on aspects of their environment such as the industry, whether the company is established or a start-up, the organization’s strategic priorities and the current economic climate. As you might imagine, the character profile that makes a successful start-up entrepreneur is very different than the leaders of a well-run government department.

Undesirable behaviors like micro-managing, on the other hand, are a lot more universal. In other words, while it’s not always the same attributes that make leaders successful, it is often the same things that cause leaders to derail. A leader who becomes insensitive and takes a “bulldozer” approach will derail in almost any situation.

These “derailers” blindside leaders because they often begin as strengths. They may even have played a significant role in the leader’s success as they climbed up the ranks.

Take someone who, in an individual contributor role, was recognized and promoted for attention to detail and for never missing a deadline. But leadership requires a whole new set of skills. Instead of empowering team members to make their own decisions and take calculated risks, this high performer comes across as a micro-manager who is anxious and tense about how things are done and displays little confidence in the ability of their direct reports.

Taking a new approach

Derailer behaviors often go unnoticed until the individual is put into a higher stress and demanding senior role. You are unlikely to discover them with traditional interview questions, but they can be identified early using in-depth assessments. Derailers don’t need to be a show stopper—it’s very rare for someone not to have at least one. By identifying and managing these potential behaviors, you can stop them from ruining the leader’s prospects for success.

The impact of derailer behaviors can be managed through well designed leadership development programs with targeted coaching.

These behaviors are very often ingrained. It can take some real self-insight for leaders to look objectively at how the traits that made them successful might now hinder them. Coaching can help leaders develop strategies to handle complex situations before their potential derailers become a problem.

People who have just been promoted are often on a euphoric high, and talking about the things that could make them fail can dampen their enthusiasm. However, when most are educated about how attributes that led them to success as an individual contributor could work against them in a leadership role, most are grateful for the knowledge and remark that it’s not something they ever realized. It’s a real shift in mindset for them.

No matter how you look at it, leaders who are more self-aware and open to feedback will likely get traction faster in their new roles and are set up for success… not to mention the benefits you get across whole teams or even the whole organization from having strong leadership.


1 Hudson’s Leadership Survey ANZ 2015
2 Van Buren M. E., Safferstone T. ‘The Quick Wins Paradox’, Harvard Business Review, January 2009.

 
 
 

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Hudson is a global talent solutions company. We help transform the workplace and unleash the full potential of organizations and individuals. Our expert team and proprietary tools provide you with unique insights and services that help you maximize your success. Across 20 countries, we deliver a range of recruitment, talent management and recruitment process outsourcing solutions to get you and your business where you want to be.