As a leader in an organization one of your many expectations would be to determine when one of your direct reports are ready to be promoted into a leadership position or deciding who should be hired from the outside into an open leadership position reporting to you. When promoting internally, this often means deciding when an “individual contributor” should become a first-time manager. When hiring from the outside, this often means determining how this person will fit with the culture of your team, department, and company.
While this responsibility to hire and promote will always be important, for organizations attempting to transform their culture to an environment of agility the cost of a poor decision is magnified exponentially. Regardless of any holistic progress you are making in transforming your organization, a single “bad” leader can keep meaningful and revolutionary change from happening. As Scott Berkun states, “Culture is local to each boss.”
Each leader you select becomes a piece of your leadership legacy so with each choice you will need to decide what the “local culture” will be for the people reporting to their new manager. Your new leaders MUST be able to model the leadership behaviors and activities conducive to the new culture being introduced.
Often, this assessment is not easy but from my experience and observations, here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to help make the decision:
Can this person envision a future few others can see?
A compelling vision. As Robert Greenleaf states in Servant Leadership, “A leader needs to have a sense for the unknowable and be able to foresee the unforeseeable. This is partly what gives leaders their “lead,” what puts them out ahead and qualifies them to show the way.”
If the only reason you are promoting someone is due to constraints in their current salary band or because they can “put out fires,” this may come back to haunt you. Even with technical leaders such as development or testing managers, they are able to craft a view of the future within the space they are leading.
Given a choice, would people willingly follow this person?
Willing followers. For most people their leader/manager is chosen for them. An organizational chart is created or refined and people are assigned to their new boss. Very rarely can people choose who they would want to follow. What if this was reversed and people can choose the leaders they would like to work with. As mentioned in this post, willing followers may be the truest test of a servant leader.
Does the language used by this person inspire followers of their vision?
A source of encouragement and motivation. The language used during an organizational transformation is important. Change is never easy and the early-stage ecosystem being shaped is fragile. The reactions of a leader during this time are crucial. One harsh word or a command-and-control reaction to “failure” can cause significant damage. I’ve seen it over-and-over again.
An Agile leader emits words such as “I trust you.” and “We can do it.” and “What do you think?” and “I’m proud of you.” The Agile leader is in the business of building people up…they are an agent of elevating others.
Does this person foster an environment of connection and relationship?
Build community. The Agile leader is able to “knit people together.” Teams are intentionally designed with diversity and weaved together with inclusion and with openness.
When focusing on encouragement, people get bigger and by focusing on social cohesion people gets stronger. This doesn’t mean there is constant agreement but groups learn how to properly disagree and people begin to voice their opinions and concerns.
Does this person give of their time to help others grow?
Sacrificial. Time is always precious for a leader but the best always allocate time for others. An Agile leaders is focused on the growth and well-being of people and the only way this happens is through the gift of time.