For 30 years I have been privileged and benefited from consulting senior leaders of organizations from startups to Fortune 1000. This has provided me with a front-row seat to observe multiple perspectives on hiring from many leadership vantage points. It’s added to my understanding of solutions that have and have not worked when choosing a new team leader. Now I would like to offer two different perspectives on hiring for a new position.
This topic is so important it nearly deserves a book. How do you decide to promote or hire, based on what criteria and logic? The reasons are varied and supported equally by many consultants and authors. My conclusion is there isn’t one answer, but there are two perspectives to consider when making this decision. Of course, no situation is like any other and there are always mitigating factors that are unique to each.
Perspective one: Hire a brand new leader who will bring brand new ideas.
Some have strongly advocated for bringing in a new person that holds no presuppositions. There are many reasons this perspective is offered. By bringing in a new person, the organization is forced to look at their every day business differently and perhaps see it from a new lens. This allows the organization to rethink its primary goal and defining objectives that lead to new positive results. Some of us have experienced organizational life where getting ideas out is difficult but putting them into action is even more difficult. Organizations who fall into this “rut” are more likely to choose an outside person who will by necessity want to rethink what things are being done, and why. This is healthy. Bringing in a new person to lead a new charge is sometimes what is required to restart a stalled or troubled organization.
Perspective two: Promote a new leader from within.
Although I appreciate the benefits of hiring a new leader as discussed in the first perspective, I more often prefer the second which is to identify someone within the organization, even if they are a level or two below the new position. I advise this more frequently for a number of reasons. The first is the person is already familiar with the organization from a unique perspective. He or she has not been in charge but has experienced the results of the former leader, good and bad. Internal politics and confusion are two large negative factors they may have had to endure. Experience with boring meetings and rejections to new ways of doing things can greatly aid the promoted leader. Most of the time the newly hired leader of the first perspective needs three to six months, or longer, to come up to speed with what’s really going on. The second perspective person brings all of that understanding with him or her on the first day.
Determining the best perspective to use depends very much on your particular organization. If you are leading an organization with this issue you should consider the amount of change you think is necessary. The more change that is required, the more the leader will need his or her team’s full support. So the decision comes down to who will have the most credibility and support from their new team. Brilliance is not enough to rebuild an organization because no one person can pull that off. They need their team’s full support.