Peter Drucker has written, “By and large, executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions. By all accounts, their batting average is no better than .333: at most one-third of such decisions turn out right; one-third are minimally effective; and one-third are out-right failures.” While those of us in executive positions might initially protest his assessment, his base of experience and our personal honesty, will ultimately prove the truth of what he says.
In our haste to fill vacant positions, we tend to focus on technical points in the resume, rather than working to match the character of the individual with the leadership and character needs of the position. There are times when we concede to the politically correct decision rather than pursuing the best candidate for the job. At other times we promote and / or hire only for the immediate position rather than looking at the long term potential the candidate has within the organization. All of this leads to the success rate proposed by Mr. Drucker.
True leadership casts a vision and then staffs to fulfill that vision. Winston Churchill had three basic principles when it came to choosing personnel. “First, ignore seniority, and pick the person you think is best suited for the job. Second, have your main plans in mind before you pick your executives, so that they are serving your designs and not their own. Third, start at the top, rather than at the bottom.” It is critically important to have a vision in mind before you start filling positions. Executives will sign on to a vision much more quickly than they will enlist for a position description or defined tasks. Those with executive ability must be able to first and foremost lead their teams to accomplish the vision.
Once they have signed on, they, in turn will staff to accomplish their contribution to the overall vision. In an existing and well developed organization, the staff is pretty much in place so it becomes the new executive’s challenge to help the existing team succeed or find replacements for those who might not be in the right seats or perhaps aren’t even on the bus. At times leaders will put a high priority on replacing executives with those who will blend well with the existing team and lose sight of the candidate who will bring the greatest success accomplishing the vision.
Suffice it to say that there is much work to be done in the training of leaders (executives and others) regarding staffing for success. With all the leadership material available today, not enough is focused on this important aspect of visionary leadership and accomplishing those visions.