Looking for a Transformational Leader?

Red paper boat departs from others

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.


Going beyond buzz words to describe the ideal leader is key. The time invested in the early stages of a search to dig more deeply into what words like "transformational', 'future-ready', 'visionary', 'resilient' or 'innovative' mean in terms of competencies, pays off in both researching and assessing potential candidates.
Andrea Forbes-Hurley

Andrea Forbes-Hurley

Managing Partner

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.

It's unlikely anyone asked a candidate to tell them about a time when they had to react to a global pandemic, before 2020. And behavioural questions aren't intended to uncover an identical example of a challenge the leader will face in the new role. Interviews need to explore examples for the skill sets and mindsets needed to successfully overcome unique situations that we can't anticipate today.
Kevin Stoddart

Kevin Stoddart

Managing Partner

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.

When looking for successful leaders of change we often start by scanning for organizations that had a major transformation. But leading during a time when an organization experienced a successful change does not mean the person at the helm successfully led the change. We have to check our biases when impressive projects appear on a CV and dig deep enough to uncover an individual's role in achieving the results.
Amorell Saunders N'Daw

Amorell Saunders N'Daw

Partner and DEI Co-Lead

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.

When there is a strong desire for change, it can feel like there is no time to waste. That's when it is really important to develop a strong onboarding plan - effective onboarding has been proven to dramatically expedite the 'ramping-up' time for new leaders.
Katherine Frank

Katherine Frank


Change is a certainty. Our work with hundreds of organizations and thousands of leaders over the past decades 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.

Successful search results require a balance of proven strategies and a willingness to challenge the status quo. Increasingly search committees are embracing this challenge and our team is happy to share our experience and insight to help organizations achieve their goals.