Qualify the Leadership

When looking for the new job or when moving across organizational boundary markers (e.g. a lateral move) one of the most important things that are in play and that should be considered is the leadership, not just the opportunity.

Too many people (including myself) have made poor decisions because the opportunity, itself, sounded and felt really good but the leadership then made them miserable. Never a good idea and a lesson that I’ve learned a handful of times…

More specifically, you need to get as good of an idea of not just the person that you will be reporting to (i.e. your direct report) but also the senior leadership, the people that created the company. You need to understand, as best as you possibly can, their story.

In doing so you’ll begin to understand their motive which permeates the entire organization and infects it with meaning, with purpose, with resolution.

This infection, of course, can be both a good or bad thing. It could be laced with poison, ego, and a self-preserving attitude that’s toxic and detrimental to the health of individuals and the organization. Or, it could be a beacon of hope and positivity, naturally encouraging the organic and purpose-driven growth of everyone and everything.

Questions to ask oneself (or the hiring manager or the person that you will be working for and with):

  1. How does the leadership (and your direct report) “work” in this organization?
  2. What are the leaders stories? Where did they come from and why are they here? How did they get their role and position within the organization?
  3. Why are they still here?
  4. How do they mentor, coach, and lead their team(s)? What does that actually look like?
  5. What has the progression been for those under their care and leadership? Where are they now? Are they still with the organization? Did they leave? Why?
  6. Does this leader really like their role or are they fatigued? Are they the right leader for this particular period and season of this particular company or are they not the right “fit”? Many leaders are in the roles they are in because that’s what the organization decided, not because they actually wanted to be leaders (the really dumb “corporate ladder” does this).
  7. Where is this leader headed? What do they envision as their future within that particular team and organization?
  8. Is this someone you can follow and take direction from? Do you get the sense that you will be able to respect their position of authority and leadership? Or do you think you’ll be at odds with them?

Essentially, you are trying to qualify leadership. You are trying to understand, for yourself, if you want to work with and for those types of people. You are trying to make as educated of a guess as you possible can about whether or not you will be not just happy but incredibly motivated and productive.

You are trying to answer the question of whether this career pivot and decision to this particular company is absolutely worth it. Perhaps their are better leaders to work for and thus better opportunities to entertain.

These are all questions I think about even in my current role @ The Iron Yard – even for myself if I feel like those that I work with and for have changed their “tune” then I need to reevaluate my decision to be there.

And, these are questions I hope people ask when they inquire about the roles that I’m hiring talent for (and I have quite a few jobs open, btw…). These create healthy dialogue and they also help me understand the person who is asking the questions.