Tips on becoming, identifying, and/or evaluating a leader

Seven-step program for would-be leaders. The November 7, 2011 issue of Fortune magazine includes an interview with Frances Hesselbein, longtime CEO of the Leader to Leader Institute. Along with reminiscences of her spectacular career, Ms Hesselbein shares advice that would-be leaders do well to heed.  You’ll want to read the article for yourself, but here is her seven-step plan for exemplary leadership, in sound-bite form.

  1. If a door is open, walk through it.
  2. Have a clear mission.
  3. Be inclusive.
  4. Accept only the best.
  5. Be on time.
  6. See yourself “life-size.”
  7. Look to the future.

Best practices in CEO evaluation. Recently, the research team at Blue Avocado (the source of “practical, provocative, and fun food-for-thought for nonprofits”) sorted through dozens of CEO evaluation instruments, looking for characteristics of the best. Now they’re passing along what they’ve learned in the form of evaluation templates that

  • Give board members the chance to reflect (and discuss) not only on the executive’s performance but on the performance of the board and of the organization.
  • Spark discussions between the executive and the board (rather than to sum them up).
  • Give the executive the opportunity to reflect and learn (if so inclined).
  • Provide a basis for salary and fire/keep decisions.
  • Lead to alignment and clarification of goals and expectations.

A word of caution from the Blue Avocado team: Do not use the templates “as is.” Take the time to adapt the forms to your organization’s circumstances.

Successful CEO searches begin with solid succession planning. That’s the hypothesis behind a research study underway by the Bridgepan Group. The findings so far, although preliminary, suggest that good leadership development and succession planning incorporates a set of six processes that build on an organization’s underlying human resource function. The six processes are:

  1. Engage senior leaders. The folks at the top need to own the succession process. They must actively dedicate time and resources to the effort.
  2. Understand future needs. What sort of capacity (e.g., roles, skills, and numbers) will the organization need in the future to achieve its strategic goals? What’s the potential of current staff to fill that capacity?
  3. Develop future leaders. Provide on-the-job stretch opportunities (e.g., temporary project or role assignments), along with mentoring and coaching.
  4. Hire leaders externally as needed. Organizations need practices in place to source, attract, screen, and integrate external hires.
  5. Measure and improve practices. Showing that a program works leads to greater buy-in within the organization.
  6. Build a culture that supports development. When a culture of feedback and professional development is fostered openly and intentionally, staff are encouraged to stay engaged.

So there you have it, a leadership resource three-pack that can help whether you’re coming, going, or trying to do better mid-stream.


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