How to Identify Leadership Qualities in Executive Candidates

executives with role model qualities

The best leaders take responsibility for developing others. The late Jack Welch said it best: 

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”  

Top business leaders understand that people matter. Your next-generation leaders are an important part of your future viability, helping your business retain its top employees and creating a strong attraction for others in the process. Your company’s future viability relies on the development of people for growth and new opportunities. They are the fastest path to creating a competitive advantage in your company. 

The optimal way to ensure that you have the leadership you need tomorrow is to hire executives with role model qualities today. That means being able to identify the right candidates through your hiring process. Role model qualities extend far beyond technical skills. Excellent role models exhibit managerial excellence and create the space for others to excel. 

At Y Scouts, the definition of a positive role model includes leading with clear communication, a commitment to collaboration and an unwavering desire to inspire others and set strong examples. How can you ensure that you can identify role models during the interview process? You’ll need to know how to interpret the responses potential hires provide during the interview.  

Begin with an understanding of the qualities that role models exhibit. 

Role Model Qualities: Developing Others

There are many types of leaders and many leadership characteristics that define them. Role models are found among a wide variety of leadership styles and characteristics. However, there are certain personal characteristics and attitudes that make role models particularly inspiring to others. In fact, it may be difficult to find a desirable role model who lacks even one of these essential traits:

  • They have a great attitude. Positivity is contagious and it energizes others. Role models do have bad days, just like everyone else. But they are able to remain calm and resilient during the most challenging situations. 
  • They exhibit integrity. Role models stand for the greater good. They have a strong moral compass and pride themselves in doing what is right over doing what is expedient. 
  • They demonstrate respect for others. Even when others are not at their best, role models show respect. This doesn’t mean they don’t assert themselves, but they manage to do it in a way that does not demean the other person.
  • They build bridges of trust. Role models understand that in order to nurture trust in a relationship, they must be open to others and willing to find ways to connect. They also honor their commitments so that others know that they can depend on them. 
  • They make time for others. Role models realize that in order to have effective communication, they will need to listen to others, ask thoughtful questions, and offer the wisdom of their experience when needed. Role models share resources and take an active interest in the employees’ lives beyond the workplace.  

Why You Should Seek Role Model Leaders

Most children have role models. Psychological studies reveal that children tend to emulate the behaviors of others that get rewarded. It’s called vicarious reinforcement. In fact, the tendency to model behaviors is so strong that children will re-create the behaviors almost as if they had been rewarded themselves. Of course, as any parent knows, the award-seeking propensity can sometimes backfire when, for example, children perceive that bad behaviors are rewarded with lots of attention.

Adults have role models, too, even when we don’t recognize them as such. Role models are those who influence others and provide essential life lessons. It’s not always easy to find good role models. The news and the entertainment media are filled with bad actors who garner a lot of attention. 

Business news headlines frequently call out a leader who is alleged to have lost sight of their moral compass. These may be more the exception than the rule. But there are many companies that have a toxic culture, one that does not facilitate or optimize the use of its resources, human or otherwise. This is, perhaps, why role models at work are so critically important.

Emtrain, a workplace consulting firm, reports that 83% of employees would not report workplace harassment if they saw it. That’s not all: Nearly one-third of those surveyed have left employers due to workplace conflict. In the shadow of the Great Resignation, this is not the environment that retains your best workers and keeps them productive. That’s why you need role models on your team.

How Can You Identify Role Models During the Interview?

During the interview, it’s not unusual for job candidates to pretend to be something they’re not. The best questions allow candidates to show you who they really are. Just remember that when they tell you who they really are, you should believe them. Follow a process that looks beyond the résumé and their ability to parrot back to you the job description. Experienced candidates can give you the textbook answers, but their experiences tell the real story. 

Here are some tips that can help:

  • Throw out your job descriptions. These give away the answers to the test. Without these excruciating details, the interviewee should be able to tell you what constitutes success in the role.
  • Dig for the details. Ask for specifics. If the interviewee gives a non-answer, prompt them to explain how they, for example, convinced a reluctant employee to get on board, created new career paths, or opened up the lines of communication.
  • Go beyond chemistry. It’s always nice to open an interview with a little getting-to-know-you chitchat. Don’t be dazzled, however, by personal chemistry. Outline in advance how the interviewee could demonstrate the ability to be a role model. For example:
    • Mentoring others or having a mentor or role model themselves
    • Being able to describe the activities of a role model
  • Avoid leading questions. You suggest an answer when you ask, “Do you like interacting with those who work for you?” A better question is, “How do you prefer to interact with your employees?”
  • Determine how they will vacate their current position. A critical question to ask is, “How much notice do you need to give your current employer?” While it may be customary to give a two-week notice, this isn’t sufficient for an executive position. If the interviewee demonstrates little concern for the transition, that may be a sign of disrespect for others. 

Of course, the most important part of the process is to consider what your interviewers will ask in advance. Ensure that each interview question is designed to help you understand what potential hires bring to the table. Your recruitment search firm should provide a guide.

Y Scouts Leadership Model and Role Models

It’s important to hire with intention at any level of the organization. It is particularly important as you expand your executive team. At Y Scouts, we can help you find your next leader with the role model qualities you need. We’ve designed our exceptional leadership model to take a radicalized approach that puts purpose and values first. This simple yet powerful model boils down the most desirable leadership qualities into three major themes, such as the following:

  1. Learns relentlessly
  2. Develops others
  3. Drives results

 If you’re looking for your next executive hire, Y Scouts can help. We understand the importance of finding the right person — someone who will be a role model and will help to build the culture that propels your business forward. We’ll help you go into each interview armed with the right questions to understand the person behind the résumé. Contact us today.