Creating a superstar leadership team is a goal every business should strive to master, for reasons too obvious to expand on.

However, in the time of digitalization and rapid process evolution, the task has become more complicated than ever.

Nevertheless, some strategies are more effective than others, and we'll take a look at the key elements to keep in mind when going about this demanding task.

Define Your Leadership Needs

First and foremost, businesses should identify the specific roles and responsibilities they need in their leadership team. Think in terms of skill sets, expertise, and experience. Don't forget soft skills!

A successful checklist may include:

  • Examining strategic goals, current challenges, and future plans
  • Identifying leadership roles and functions (see below)
  • Defining role-specific responsibilities
  • Determining qualifications and skills
  • Specifying the level of experience and expertise requested
  • Defining the leadership style that will best fit into organizational culture
  • Ensuring that the candidate is aligned with organizational values
  • Enduring that the leadership structure complements organizational dynamics

When it comes to identifying leadership roles (which typically include CEO, COO, CTO, CFO, VP of marketing/sales, and director of operations), you don't necessarily have to look for new candidates. Namely, since picking the right candidates can be time-consuming and costly, you may hire an interim COO instead.

In other words, relying on a third-party executive can be a good strategy in times of urgency. Also, experienced third-party execs typically fit easily into any organizational culture due to their vast experience.  

Create Clear Job Descriptions

Creating clear job descriptions for leadership roles is a must. Not only will the practice attract the right candidates, but will also help the business define its needs clearly.

The practice goes beyond defining role titles and the reporting structure, which is just the first step. The next one is defining the objective and purpose, expanding on how the new hire will contribute to organizational goals.

Follow up by detailing key responsibilities (short-term and long-term), which should be specific and detailed. Underline expectations and set milestones for them. List both responsibilities.

Define the qualifications and requirements for the role; the step that typically concerns itself with education, certifications, and years of experience. However, sometimes industry-specific knowledge is also critical, so make sure to outline the requirements your business may benefit from.

Once that's been settled, move on to clarifying performance expectations. Use quantifiable metrics, too. Some examples — depending on the role — may include project completion deadlines, cost reduction goals, and sales targets.

One critical aspect when hiring leaders that gets overlooked often is team interaction requirements. Namely, even the finest of experts can perform poorly if they're not a good fit. Hence, make sure to define preferred interaction types (collaboration, reporting, communication channels, and expectations…).

Defining the desired leadership style comes next. Firstly, the candidate needs to be a suitable cultural fit and their leadership style able to seamlessly align with organizational culture and values.

Long-Term Vision and Strategy

It is essential to define the long-term vision and strategy for leadership roles. The practice sets the direction the organization is heading to and aligns leadership responsibilities with overreaching goals.

Outlining the leader's involvement in the company vision can clarify the role further and bring forth much-needed alignment.

This step can get tricky as it requires the creation of a comprehensive roadmap outlining long-term goals and milestones. To top it off, it should also specify the leader's role in the vision development, which is a rather comprehensive strategy.

To simplify it, start by highlighting the leader's role directly aligns with the achievement of target goals. It may be further broken down by setting departmental objectives, strategic planning initiatives, and actionable plans (milestones, timelines, performance indicators…).

If growth and expansion are in the making, leaders should be clearly told that from the get-go. The approach in this scenario requires the leader to be actively involved in market analysis, identifying growth opportunities, and formulating strategies for entering new markets.

Cultural Fit Assessment

Assessing cultural fit in the leadership team just may be the most important aspect when choosing the right candidate. Scilicet, the organization needs to operate harmoniously while being aligned with the target values, culture, and vision.

Not an easy task, that, so keep looking for the right fit!

 For starters, look for candidates who understand the organizational culture (as opposed to molding them into shape). Communicate core values, beliefs, behavioral norms, and work environment. Clarify the fundamental values that should serve as a starting point (typical examples include collaboration, innovation, and customer-centricity).

Next on, identify specific components of the organizational culture. Typical examples include employee empowerment, transparency, and work-life balance (don't skip the latter!).

Once you're sure the candidate is aligned with all these requirements, follow up by conducting behavioral interviews and situational questions. These usually start with “Tell me about a time when you had to…”

Instead of a conclusion, we'll leave you with one final thought: try using leadership assessment tools to help you eliminate candidates who are not a good fit. Being based on established leadership frameworks, they can outline key competencies far faster than any human could.

At the end of the day, HR teams should focus on fine-tuning.