“With The First Pick in the 2022 Leadership Draft, (insert organization here) Selects …”
You may recognize the phrase within the title of this article from your recent binge-watching of the NFL Draft. The NFL Draft is a spectacle. Roger Goodell bear hugging the players has become a meme and don’t get me started on Mel Kiper, Jr. (an American institution!). Now, in truth, I find it to be an enjoyable spectacle but I am more interested in the NFL Combine in all its measurable glory!! The Combine precedes the Draft and players from across college football come to be analyzed, interviewed, recorded, and measured in all manner of things, some of which you might question their relevance. They are looking at 40 yard dash times and bench press reps (both of which seem pretty relevant depending on the position you are drafting for) as well as arm length, throwing passes without any defenders on the field, and hand size (crazy if a better player on tape could be drafted lower because his arms are marginally shorter than another player but I digress).
Nonetheless, the afterglow of the Draft and Combine binge leads me to ponder a more tactical question: What are you evaluating when identifying your next leader in your organization? Are you looking at lagging indicators like financial data? Individual performance in a role? The manner in which they navigate the office culture? 360s and self evaluations?These are all relevant data points and I simply wish to encourage you to evaluate other accountabilities as well that are indicators of effective leadership. I engaged with an organization’s leadership team recently about this very process and they were open to rethinking their traditional leadership development paradigm. I was impressed by their desire to identify individuals who offered different perspectives, who were not afraid to challenge the status quo with critical thinking, and … watch this … make others around them better and feel valued. Of course, these rising leaders must be accountable to expectations, be aware of the realities of budgets, and be aligned with organizational vision but it was the additional elements that were similarly non-negotiable. Specifically, I found the commitment to making everyone around them better as the most compelling criterion.
In their recent Harvard Business Review article, Kim Cameron and Emma Sappala share some insights from their research on leaders’ positive relational energy as the most determinative factor in extraordinary performance of an organization. The authors define the term as the energy exchanged between people that helps uplift, enthuse, and renew them. The result, according to Cameron and Sappala, is extraordinary performance of the organization if leaders possess this positive relational energy. So, if you adhere to the data supported conclusion that leaders are the single most important factor in accounting for an organization’s performance, take a more complete approach to how you evaluate the factors that drive this powerful energy. Much like a GM for an NFL team, make sure you are evaluating the better leadership accountabilities such as motivating not mandating, the ability to LISTEN and ask great questions, knowing people and not just knowing about people, creating a sense belonging, clarity of vision and plan and roles, learning not knowing, and psychological safety. Don't let sunk cost fallacy or other biases push you into falling in love with the next leader without evaluating ALL of the right criteria.