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What If We Used an Executive Search Firm to Pick a Prez?

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I recently read an opinion piece by Steven Katz in the Chicago Tribune that discussed bringing business logic to the search for a presidential candidate. While politics does play a role in business, the hiring of a CEO and the voting of a candidate into office are as different as McCain is from Obama.

But what if, the author wonders, we used an executive search firm -- the way businesses usually do -- to qualify our next President? What criteria would a president of the United States or a CEO be judged by as an indicator of success? Mission critical factors were organized into seven categories: strategic skills, operating skills, courage, energy and drive, organizational positioning skills, and personal and interpersonal skills. Both quantifiable hard skills and less quantifiable soft skills compose a great leader. What I found interesting about the piece was the general consensus from executive search firms that when leaders fail, it's almost always related to soft skills. People IQ, self-awareness, chemistry, values, ability to motivate, etc.

Edward Santimauro of executive search firm Korn/Ferry International says "study after study says executives fail not because of their technical skills or industry experience but because of their lack of ability to lead and fit into a culture." The conclusion: it's not what someone knows or who someone knows. Instead, the most important factor in an executive's success is the soft skills. Teamwork, motivation, leading others while playing well and overall chemistry with the organization they are in charge of.

The soft skills come naturally for some, but are the hardest things to master for others. That's a lesson every leader needs to be cognizant of when striving for success.

Last updated: Sep 8, 2008




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