Every positive action by every employee contributes to the success of your institution. But the people with the most far-reaching impact are your senior administrators and executives. Forward-thinking presidents can influence donors and garner resources for new programs. Respected academic deans can attract leading faculty, increasing enrollment and prestige.
They are serious positions with serious influence. And these dynamic leaders, like everyone else at your institution, will eventually leave. Research says that as many as 50 percent of senior administrators will exit their current positions in the next five to 10 years. It’s no wonder that succession planning is the number one organizational concern expressed by nonprofit boards and CEOs year after year, according to the Bridgespan Group.
What does leadership look like?
Hopefully, you’ve had the opportunity to work with a great leader at least once in your career. Think about the qualities that made them exceptional: the vision they established, and their personal traits that inspired you to raise the bar on your own performance. In our work with more than 1,400 organizations, and through in-depth I/O research, we’ve defined the quintessential competencies of a great leader. For example, a strong leader:
- Sets and achieves strategic goals.
- Works with key individuals to develop short and long term objectives and action plans.
- Motivates others.
- Builds mutual trust, respect, and cooperation.
- Builds a strong and diverse team by continually recruiting and selecting competent and talented people.
- Leads a team by delegating work that is suited to each individual’s capabilities, provides guidance, and creates a mentoring environment.
- Holds direct reports accountable for meeting their goals.
Other essential soft skills are flexibility, valuing diversity, and the ability to promote change. And a recent one reflective of our digital age is a willingness to embrace innovation and technology. It’s a tall order. And getting insights into whether a candidate has these qualities won’t be accomplished through traditional phone reference checks. It’s time for a new approach.
Online reference checking software gives references an easy-to-use and confidential tool to provide feedback on whether a candidate possesses the critical behavioral competencies needed by leaders and managers. Within a day or two, your institution has a complete and honest picture of whether someone has the right stuff to be a leader in higher education. Your hiring managers and selection committees can use the information to make better decisions about the best-fit candidates prior to the interview process—and before shelling out the money for their airfare.
Create a pipeline for your next great hire
You are always hiring across a wide range of jobs—from faculty to security staff to graphic designers – and talking to their references in the process. You might already be talking to one of your future leaders! Invite references to become part of your passive database of potential candidates. If they accept, you’ll know they’re interested in your institution and you can start a conversation for future openings.
This approach has worked well for Clemson University. They routinely ask references to upload their own information for possible consideration for future employment. Clemson finds that 22 percent of references are submitting their names, building an otherwise difficult to obtain list of passive candidates. Josh Brown, talent acquisition manager at the university, says many of the references that opt in are at the executive level or higher, and are typically some of their stronger candidates.
People who can build an effective team, inspire them to excel, and advance the mission of an institution, are few and far between. Learn how to identify them in an on-demand webinar with me and Sharon Ewles, staffing manager at Mott Community College.
Read our other blog posts in this series: Shining a Light on Past Performance to Identify Star Performers, Picking Up the Pace to Reduce Time-to-Fill and Promoting Diversity and Minimizing Risk