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Look for red flags in potential leaders

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When hiring a new leader for your team, it’s essential to interview his or her direct reports so you can smoke out any nasty surprises.

People learn what they want in a leader by finding out what they don’t want. If you encounter any of these responses, probe around:

  • “We were served a ‘priority du jour.’ He changed his mind all the time and reversed big decisions.”
  • “Sometimes she yelled at us for delivering bad news.”
  • “He bullied people in front of everybody, even customers.”
  • “If you told her anything was going wrong, she would march right to the culprit and basically rat you out.”
  • “He doesn’t trust any of us. He micromanages the managers and their people.”
  • “I thought he was a poor judge of talent. He hired three fast talkers.”
  • “She just wanted a ‘strategy’ to dangle in front of the CEO and the board, not one that we could hope to actually deliver.”

Any of these answers alone is a red flag. If you get one, be sure to ask others about that behavior to determine if there are patterns or flukes.

Even if you firmly intend to hire a candidate after hearing some sketchy remarks, these interviews can provide insights that will put you on a better footing.

— Adapted from The Right Leader: Selecting Executives Who Fit, Nat Stoddard with Claire Wyckoff, John Wiley & Sons.

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