The most important decision
Choosing the right leader for any organisation is its most important business.
Just ask employees and shareholders, and they will tell you that their experience and investment will hinge on whether they can follow the person with the utmost accountability for future results.
Customers, too, will weigh in but most often only if issues with products or services are somehow disrupted or changed without their support. These are the silent majority stakeholders who will assume the mantle of leadership for the brands they support will be passed from one capable steward to another.
Trust the view of others
Too often, companies select an individual based on their deep corporate experience and bottom-line track record without probing at the personal attributes that tell others about the kind of person they truly are and what new charges should expect from them.
Trust the view of others who would tell you that there are individuals in major leadership roles within large, global enterprises who, at their core, may not actually be leaders capable of inspiring others, but who are rather lacking in character, courage and respect and therefore tend to alienate the real leaders below them in the organisation chart.
This isn't saying that people who are universally liked and admired must be the only ones considered to lead today's global companies. Quite to the contrary, many recognise from the start of their business careers that one cannot please everyone. Invariably, big business results require difficult decisions.
The larger question, however, is whether the individual in the Chief Executive's seat is consistent and equitable in his or her communication with and treatment of others, and whether the individuals who most closely demonstrate the stated values of the organisation hold the leader in high regard or harbour resentment about the boss.
A true difference maker
Personal stories and experience about individuals' one-on-one experiences with a leader offer an important glimpse into what motivates the leader. The things that are most important to him or her – and whether their daily behaviour aligns with those same things – say an awful lot about the person and what should be expected of them in the future.
Among the most revealing signposts of executive leadership are the little things that frame the memories of current colleagues, former employees and other business associates. These are the individuals with the most informing perspectives about the candidates for your company's leadership role because the volume of time spent with the individual is significant and consistent.
Sure, they can share a few of your candidate's idiosyncrasies. After all, you're not hiring a perfect candidate. More importantly, however, they can relate views on how the leader inspired them to greater success and career growth. They may also share stories about how their lives have been changed for the better from the experience of working with a true difference maker.
What matters most?
As with so many things in life, with great opportunities comes great risk. Just remember that picking the right leader for your enterprise is about far more than evaluating the individual's fit with your biggest and most important job description.
What matters most is whether the individuals who best represent your company's values would get excited to follow the person you choose to lead. That's when the magic happens for others.