The ability to effectively respond to a crisis or to lead change have long been considered leadership imperatives. However, change on the scale that organizations now face, combined with the strains of a continued global crisis, have many reconsidering their leadership needs.

Studies point to critical leadership skills for effective leaders of change – such as a leader’s ability to communicate a vision that inspires and motivates. Their knack for acting quickly to implement change while still making a connection to the vision clear. Their ability to foster innovation. Their capacity to attend to the human impact of change with empathy and compassion. Not only must leaders be resilient, they must also build resilience in others.

It’s a tall order to fill. It’s also a challenging combination to identify.

Regardless of how your ideal leader profile may be shifting, four fundamental considerations can help to ensure the success of your search process:

Creating Clarity and Alignment

Search committees must first agree on the strategic priorities, responsibilities, and behaviours needed for the role. This information will form the basis for the competencies, credentials and experience the new leader will require.

A common understanding of the ideal leader profile among search committee members is crucial. A job analysis drawing on existing job descriptions, strategic plans as well as input from key stakeholders can help to create a competency profile to guide the development of the ideal leader profile.

Assessing Candidates for Proven Potential

Even after the competency profile has been agreed upon, it is easy to stray during the assessment process. This makes it even more critical that interview questions, assessments, and reference questions are chosen with target competencies in mind.

Structured interviews (posing the same questions in the same way to all candidates) have proven to be the best way to gather candidate information to inform decisions. Situational (what would you do in this situation) and behavioural (what have you done in similar situations) interview questions both have merit in effectively predicting performance. However, behavioural questions have been shown to be slightly more effective in assessing performance for more complex management positions. There are also a variety of psychometric assessments that offer insight into an individual’s leadership style which can further inform interview questions.

Reflecting on Biases and Barriers

If you rely on traditional concepts of what a leader should look, sound, and act like – or the precise career path they should have followed – you are less likely to find leaders to address new leadership needs.

Being conscious of bias is critical. This may require taking time to educate all those involved in the hiring process about unconscious bias and its impact on hiring decisions. Also, seeking information from multiple reliable sources and posing questions tied to the ideal profile will mitigate the impact of bias.

Planning a Roadmap for Success

Expecting any leader to transform an organization without a clear, shared understanding of what success looks like in the role, or a plan to develop the critical relationships needed to realize their goals, sets a leader up for failure.

An onboarding plan should be customized to the individual leader, drawing on insights gained and gaps identified during the selection process, and include expectations about how ongoing feedback will be provided.

Change is a certainty. Our work with hundreds of organizations and thousands of leaders over the past 45 years affirms this. We know that being able to see opportunity in challenges is a sought-after skill and not ever leader will have the ability to action their vision for change or to lead through these challenging times. However, there are strategies for finding the right leader for your organization.