How to Select An Exceptional Leader

By |2016-09-10T19:51:49+00:00June 24th, 2015|High Growth|

How To Select An Exceptional Leader

The right leaders make all the difference.

It’s simple. If you look at all the successful companies in history and today, they’ll have one thing in common: exceptional leadership.

As Y Scouts continues to pioneer a revolutionary approach to identify exceptional leaders and match them to the positions you need, the most common question we frequently field is along the lines of “how to select an exceptional leader.”

We’re passionate about the power of the right connections, and wanted to utilize a community we’ve long been a part of: HARO. We asked the HARO community for their tips and advice for employers who are looking to hire an exceptional leader for their organization. We asked them what should they look for in a leader, and how can they make the right hiring decisions?

Here’s what the HARO community came back with.

Tell me something that’s true
Sean Si, CEO of Qeryz

I’ll definitely go with Peter Thiel’s approach on this one. Ask a potential leader this: “Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on.”

This does two things: Validate originality of thinking and courage in speaking up – two critical traits for a leader especially in this day and age.

Being a coachable coach
Adam Dailey, Chief Executive Officer at FunLy Events

Employers who want great leaders should look at a leader’s ability to be coached and to coach others. Ask them to point out times where they’ve coached others. Using the word ‘coach’ instead of ‘lead’ gets people to open up more.

Seek complete and consistent information
Tacy M. Byham and Richard S. Wellins are CEO and SVP, respectively, of Development Dimensions International (DDI)

Over the last four decades, we’ve trained thousands of managers to make better hiring decisions. As we worked with our clients, we began to document some of their most common mistakes.

One of the major hiring mistakes is failing to seek complete and consistent information from applicants on the specific competencies needed for success in the job. In fact, if you were to ask a group of managers hiring for the same requirements for success, they’re often likely to come up with different lists.

Focus On Cultural Fit
Dominique Jones, Vice President of Human Resources, of Halogen Software

My best advice is to focus on cultural fit. While a candidate for a leadership position may have the right experience, which is important of course, it’s important to ensure this individual’s competencies align to your core values. This means looking beyond technical competencies when assessing candidates for their role. Look at behavioral competencies, as well. Individuals who are a good fit are likely to be more engaged and happier in their role.

Focus On The Exceptional Things
Dr. Chester Goad, of The EdVenturist

Sometimes we tend to over complicate the search for exceptional leaders. It’s actually pretty simple. We can identify exceptional leaders by the exceptional things they have done. For example, accomplishments or successful undertakings outside the typical scope of their job. What are candidates accomplishments that are above, beyond or even outside the job that strike you as exceptional? Look for those things that are uncommon, unusual, remarkable, or outstanding about them. It’s certainly possible to be top notch, an excellent worker, a mover and a shaker, without being truly exceptional. When it comes to leadership, we have to get beyond thinking just in terms of a dedicated or hardworking, employee. We all want dedicated and hardworking team members. An exceptional leader though, will be doing extraordinary things. They will stand out and because of their ability to stand out, or to do uncommon things even among a field of dedicated, hard working people.

The ability to keep a clear focus
William Bauer, Managing Director of Royce Leather

We promote those with the ability to manage and lead in times of ambiguity, conflict, uncertainty and inconsistency. Life is not a straight line. What differentiates leaders from the average soul is the ability to keep a clear focus on the end goal despite all the setbacks and lack of perfect information.

Ask About Past Failures
Idan Shpizear, CEO of 911 Restoration

Leaders are positive. Leaders believe in possibility. From my experience, every project will experience momentary setbacks. It then becomes the leader’s job to raise morale and get things going. When I interview candidates I ask them about their past failures. I don’t care so much that they failed, but I do care about their attitude and perspective on their past failures. If they dwell on it or apologize for it, I know they’re not for me.

Leadership Is About Listening
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of

Leadership roles come with a lot of baggage. Assumptions abound about what a leader is supposed to be and do, so if you hire someone with no leadership experience, chances are they still believe old tropes about strength and decisiveness, when in reality leading, especially in the context of a business, is more about listening and running a team from within. Effective leaders see themselves as a part of a team, and most people don’t realize that until they’ve been given a leadership role. When hiring, look for people who have some sort of leadership experience – even if it’s just for a few projects, or within a different industry, or as a volunteer. Leadership is hard to teach, but a little experience goes a long way.

Failing that, give them a scenario wherein they have to demonstrate their traits and decision-making as a leader. See if they talk about listening to their team, or if they just give a laundry list of actions they’d take. At the end of the day they are the ones making the decisions, but you don’t want to hire anyone who sees themselves as the keystone of a team.

Look At The Track Record
Keith Johnston, True North Leadership

One of the best ways to find exceptional leaders is to look at their track record. Their track record should include high school and college
experiences. Were they selected as captain of their football team or president of their fraternity. Were there examples of peers in their organizations selecting them as their leaders? Ask them about projects they have been involved in and how they were able to get their project team to buy in to the vision. Find out how they went about communicating their vision, particularly how they were able to make it a shared vision. When they talk about their accomplishments do they give credit to their team and supporting cast or do they take all the credit for themselves?

Know the Difference Between Leading and Managing
Milan Dekich, Marketing Manager & Start Up Advisor, Genesis Net Development

Managers keep the status quo. Leaders have a vision for the future. What does the potential leader see for your company? What are their dreams and envisions? If they can’t sell you (the employer) on where they plan to take the organization, how can sell their staff?

Come up with questions that will help you decipher their ability to know when it’s time to manage and when it’s time to motivate their staff to new frontiers.

Passionate, Decisiveness, Toughness
Crystal Stranger, EA, President of 1st Tax

There are three things that businesses should look for in hiring an exceptional leader:

1. Passionate – having someone who genuinely loves what you do is critical as this person must be the one driving the motivation for everyone else on the team.

2. Decisive – ask them questions about how they have made big decisions in the past, and test them with little decisions to see how they react.

3. Tough – a good leader shouldn’t come over too easily. They should negotiate hard with you to get the most for themselves, this shows they have a better chance of negotiating on behalf of the company.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.