Management Traits

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Leadership is the ability to effectively guide, direct and influence people. They lead by influencing and building teams. They get results through the willing cooperation of their people.

July 01, 2004

 

Bob Piper, Principal, The Talon Group

Leadership, adaptability and drive - common traits desired in any management hire, be it a superintendent, vice president of sales or division president. Gather a roomful of successful CEOs and the vast majority will agree. But ask them to define what those traits look like or how to spot them in a candidate, and the answers will become varied. Too often we assume a leader must look and act like Jack Welch, or someone with drive must replicate Lance Armstrong.

We've interviewed scores of management candidates over the last 19 years and can attest that some of the best don't look or act anything like Welch or Armstrong. So how do you identify these dimensions in the candidates you interview? What should you look for?

Leadership

Leadership is the ability to effectively guide, direct and influence people.

True leaders tend to use the word "we." They lead by influencing and building teams. They get results through the willing cooperation of their people. Effective leaders inspire and persuade. They tend to avoid the spotlight and are content to credit success to their team.

Behavioral indicators:

  • doesn't intimidate or coerce the team
  • motivates others to achieve and grow
  • gets results through the willing cooperation of the team
  • demonstrates confidence

 

Adaptability

Leaders possess the ability to modify their behavior to interact effectively with people of various styles and backgrounds. With all the changes in the home building business, one must be adaptable and flexible to be effective. No one wants to hire someone who is experience bound. Life's too short to listen to, "We always did it this way at XYZ company."

Behavioral indicators:

  • manages change well
  • accepts direction comfortably
  • uses ideas suggested by others
  • isn't "rule-bound" or "lock-step"
  • tends to find compromise

Drive

Drive is the energy and determination that helps somebody achieve what he or she wants to do. Individuals with good drive tend to speak in terms of accomplishments and results rather than duties and tasks. Their work history shows progressive responsibility and success. They like to lead, and they like to win. Also, don't think everyone with drive has that "bronco at the gate" demeanor. Years ago one of our clients coined this as "quiet drive," not as visible on the surface and you have to dig to find it. Such candidates are not prone to talk about their successes, preferring to let their actions speak on their behalf.

Regardless of overt or covert drive, the key is to determine the direction of the candidate's drive. What's the motivation? It won't work if it is accomplishment or success for personal gain or to make it happen at any cost. There must be balance so keep you eyes and ears open.

Behavioral indicators:

  • sets ambitious yet achievable goals for self and team
  • is tenacious
  • demonstrated achievement in personal, educational and professional background
  • uses excellence, not average, as their measure

Of the behavioral dimensions, drive is one of the hardest to modify or change. In most cases, a candidate either has drive or doesn't.

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