I read recently this inspiring article „Hire Leaders for What They can do„, which is about about the importance of considering not only the past high performance but also the potential of a leader. 

When I was working as an HR Manager in an international pharmaceutical Berlin-based company, I was among others in charge of recruitment & hiring of  executives from the external labour market.

I remember that I had sometime controversial discussions with the line managers, who were giving me the task of seeking for a new manager in their own department.

The reason of this debate was basically their position that „only academic titles and past experience should be assessed during job interviews.“

On the other side my view was that past experiences and qualifications create a good platform for the retrospective candidate’s assessment but should be completed by an perspective judgment of the candidate’s leadership potentiality.

I am aware that we, as human beings, tend to trust with our Paleolithic part of the brain, what we know and what is tangible rather then to develop a mental scenario of the future, which may not show up.

We are afraid to be judged / punished for our „errors“ if things do not developed as wished. We cannot afford as „responsible adults“ to make „just experiments“, we need „to take decisions on the base of concrete facts, numbers and evidence-based elements…“.

And yet in this dynamic, continuosly evolving modern economic and technological world, PAST HIGH PERFORMANCE ist not always a reliable predictive factor for excellent future leadership. 

In other words, the ontogenetic development potential can be more important of the glorification of past (storytelling-based) performances.

When hiring new staff in my team, I personally rely on an hybrid-model of PAST-RELATED EVIDENCE and EXTRAPOLATIONS FOR THE FUTURE. 

In my perception, there are 3 types of leader/performers:


The first one is e.g. the one who has been promoted e.g. from a technical into a leadership position automatically, maybe by chance because the management position has become vacant suddenly (due to illness, reorganization, contract’s termination,….). He/she is like someone who is invited to run a 12 km marathon, but he has only trained a couple of hours / month and after few minutes during the marathon he/she gives up out of breath, because he/she is not mentally and physically well-trained for it.

The second one is the manager who performs well in an environment with well-defined structures and processes. In companies where he/she has a clear job description, money and time to flourish in his/ her comfort zone.

The cons of the situation: his/her survival / fitting potential is very low. Just because he/she is working in a safe / protected / well-regulated / oversaturated environment, he/she will tend to increase the comfort level on the mid-long-term with low value for the organization.

The third one is the most interesting.

He / she is the one who has optimized „4 mental operative systems“ which have enable them to…

He/she is the person who will tell you during the Job-Interview that „he/she has been always trying in the last 12 months to understand WHAT IS THE WISHED CLIENT EXPERIENCE“, showing that he/she is well aware of the fact that people start to do business with you, if they feel recognized and understood in their own (emotional) needs. For this point I recommend the MUST-read books of George Häusel on limbic mapping / neuromarketing.

2) design and „sells“ AN EXCELLENT – UNIQUE PRODUCT
The first IPhone of Steve Jobs, the David of Donatello, the paintings of Van Gogh,,,all these masterpiece have been crafted by these „art people with an authotelic  FLOW personality“ in spite of strong resistance from outside. For them the pursuit of excellence was much more profound than chase for profit.

During my recent holiday in Montego Bay / Jamaica, I came in contact with a butler, who was spending hours and hours on the floor of my hotel. No matters at which hour of the day he was always saying to me „…if you need something, just let me know…I am here for you…“ And I really felt that these words were authentic and nor the results of a hotel training.

4) remove CLIENT FRUSTRATION dramatically
They know how to support the client in difficult situations and over time. They make the user experience (s. point Nr. 1) an incredible rewarding experience for the client, decreasing till level „0“ any possible negative influencing factors.

These 4 operative systems are in my perception both essential for the success in business and in relationships for leaders. That’s why in the second part of the interview, after the candidate has reported about the past experience,  I use these behavioral skills – related questions, asking..

…tell me…given a fictive situation in which you (…you simulate a scenario in which the candidate has to navigate mentally during the interview)

1) what is for you USER EXPERIENCE? 

2) what is for you CUSTOMER SERVICE ? 

3) which is your CUSTOMER ATTITUDE?

4) how do you manage CLIENT FRUSTRATION?

Marco Giannecchini