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Dr. Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates – Top Attributes CEOs Should Consider In Determining Leadership Potential

Author of 2 books, premier business coach and consultant, Dr. Kimberly Janson shares her expertise on the subject of finding excellent leadership candidates. Helping executives, teams, and companies become better at leading and managing is her forte and what she loves to do!  

It is obvious that companies across the globe are experiencing a talent shortage. Look at any industry, and you’ll find they are struggling to fill positions at every level. We can blame Covid and the gig economy, but the truth is we were and are in the midst of an even more significant issue, a leadership crisis, that pre-dates the pandemic. We are suffering from a global leadership crisis.

What can be done to change our course? According to Dr. Kimberly Janson, CEO and President of Janson Associates, “To fix the problem, we need people at the top of the house, the decision-makers when it comes to hiring and promoting within organizations, to be better at determining leadership potential. We need them to become more proficient, using science and experts to help them understand the predictive criteria that they should look for in leadership candidates. They should spend time and money developing the leadership capabilities of people who have the right components rather than investing in people who don’t have the core components required to be good leaders.”

Dr. Janson’s and Dr. Melody Rawling’s new book, Determining Leadership Potential, Powerful Insights to Winning at the Talent Game, is available for presale and is set to launch in August. They conducted extensive research for the book, including interviewing and surveying 51 CEOs from various backgrounds, countries, industries, and organization sizes. With two master’s degrees, a Ph.D. in Business, and over 25 years of experience working in over 40 countries, Dr. Janson has a wealth of knowledge and experience with all facets of leadership.

Within organizations, the leadership crisis is fueled by variation in what people look for to determine potential. These inconsistencies are a major root cause of the poor job being done. Without intentionality, direction, and collaboration, leaders use their own guidelines for determining the suitability and potential of leadership candidates, and these vary from leader to leader.

When Dr. Janson surveyed CEOs, asking them which values they use in determining leadership potential, their top choices in order were: followership, curiosity, performance, empathy, communicative, strategic, integrity-honesty, humility, good listener, and collaborative. Their answers were all over the board, and even with the highest percentage answering ‘followership’, only 8.2% of CEOs selected it as a top value.

Without guidance, leaders often mistakenly use a candidate’s performance record as the basis for promoting them into leadership roles. “Unless the job duties are exactly the same, performance is not a predictor of potential,” says Janson. “Variation is one of the biggest issues in our crisis around leadership. How do you develop a good pipeline of strong leaders if decision-makers at each organizational level are all looking for something different – and looking for the wrong criteria?”

When Dr. Janson questioned CEOs further, asking them point-blank about the four qualities that are scientifically proven to be good determiners of leadership potential: intelligence, personality, motivation, and learning agility, they all acknowledged these four components were attributes they desire in leadership candidates and indeed used them. But they didn’t even make the top ten criteria identified by CEOs listed early in this article. So when asked broadly, people aren’t identifying these four critical criteria but when asked specifically, they are fully agreeing to their criticality. This framework, called the “Leadership Blueprint,” is a simple but powerful framework that can help.

It is more complicated than just knowing they should be looking for intelligence, personality, motivation, and learning agility – how does an organization assess for them and create unbiased, clear guidelines that can be followed company-wide for interviewing, assessment, and hiring practices?

With regard to personality, Dr. Janson uses a word that is worthy of consideration – “derailers.” She explains, “If people have derailing personality traits, those traits separate others from them.” To name a few: If a candidate is self-absorbed, they are selfish and don’t give credit. If they are too detail-oriented, they can’t see the bigger picture. Highly critical people are negative. Volatile people are polarizing – you never know if you are going to get Person A or B on any given day. “Remember how the top survey choice made by CEOs was followership,” says Dr. Janson, “Derailers are the opposite of followership!”

According to Dr. Janson, it’s essential to look for these negatives in candidates to ensure they don’t have them. “There are no perfect leaders or personalities,” says Dr. Janson. “But, decision-makers have to be vigilant about sourcing for derailing personality traits. We can teach candidates how to engage people and create followership, but without the raw ingredients, we are never going to help people become who they can be.”

“Personality and intelligence are fixed values – they can’t be taught or changed,” says Dr. Janson. “Likewise, the motivation and learning agility of a candidate cannot be controlled by an organization…only the person, which is why you need to hire people who make these two criteria a high priority in their lives.” For example, take motivation – managers often contemplate promoting candidates while wishing they had a bigger engine – more motivation. No one can light a person’s fire – this is up to the candidate to own and manage.

Dr. Janson’s work history includes executive-level positions with H. J. Heinz, Bank of America, Hasbro, and Bank of Boston before establishing Janson Associates, and her client list continues to be no less impressive. Her motivation stems from her passion for working with executives, teams, and companies that want to become better at leading and managing. Her life’s work has involved motivating and training others to achieve their best.

Dr. Janson purports that we need to be more clinical in how we look at leadership candidates. They are revealing who they are in the way they show up, and we need to believe what they are telling us about themselves through their behavior. Many of the values CEOs are looking for are teachable – but it’s the four components (intelligence, personality, motivation, and learning agility) that are more scientifically predictable in terms of people’s potential.

Leaders are not selecting the right people early enough to give them a good variety of experiences that will develop the kind of judgment that will make them strong leaders. Identifying the right candidates enables organizations to teach them critical leadership skills, like decision-making, clear communication, and ability to create energy around an idea or project.

Selecting suitable candidates for leadership is a science that takes knowledge and expertise. “Don’t invest in people who lack the core components to be good leaders,” says Dr. Janson.

Dr. Janson is passionate about topics like these because she believes her work can change lives. Good leaders end up doing good things at work – and have the potential to do great things at home, in their communities, and the world, positively affecting many lives. She is just as passionate about the perils of promoting inadequate candidates into leadership roles, which can cost organizations far more than astronomical dollar amounts when you consider loss of employee morale and turnover. Just like positives, negative effects can be far-reaching as well.

Dr. Janson is a sought-after resource to help executives, teams, and organizations unleash their potential. Her book, Demystifying Talent Management should be on every leader’s bookshelf, and you can be among the first to receive a copy of Determining Leadership Potential.

To inquire about Dr. Janson’s premier consulting and coaching services, she can be reached at Janson Associates.




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