How can I test a person has strong leadership skills?
I am looking for a Cofounder that is on an equity sharing basis. How do I know that this person will be a strong leader and is good at execution? Is there a way to test their skills and check whether he/she possesses a growth mindset?
1. Ask them some questions like:
Can you describe your leadership style? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Can you tell me about a project where you led a team to increase performance, sales etc.? What do you think a business needs in place to grow? What do you think your leadership brings to a team? etc.
2. Check their LinkedIn profile, sometimes their projects are listed, reviews, awards, and volunteer work.
3. Do some online research. Success leaves clues.
4. Ask for references
I am going to be a little blunt here and I apologize for that. First off, my question would be: Are you really looking for what you are asking about? You are asking about "leadership skills" Is what you are looking for really the ability to manage and motive people? I am suspecting what you are really looking for is management skills, the ability to guide the business in a way it grows and prospers which would include managing the people as a subset.
If what you are looking for is leadership you first need to decide what kind of leadership you are comfortable with. Different businesses need different styles of leadership and it needs to match the corporate culture. You need a leader whose style you are comfortable with.
One possible way of screening is to come up with a series of "what if" questions such as this: You are the manager and walk into a storage area. You find Joe who has been a wonderful employee for 6 years sleeping in the storage room. How would you handle it? There are a number of possible answers and the correct one depends on the management style you want. Some possible answers are 1. I would fire him on the spot. 2. I would give him a warning and tell him if I ever caught him sleeping again he would be fired. 3. I would ask him if he was feeling ok and if he said yes I would ask why he was sleeping on company time and make it clear he can't do that and should he feel the need again he should go home.
If what you are looking for is more management skills then I would look more at their past experiences and achievements. I would look at their record in marketing and running a business and consider their skills at leadership of people to be of less importance.
I think it was Colin who brought up a really good point. It seems to me that at this point in time you have no business (your words are you haven't started yet) and you are still uncertain about what specifically the business will be, and that you want them to bring some cash to the table. Keep in mind the more you bring to the table the higher quality you can seek as a partner. My guess is you have some excellent technical skills, some cash and a dream. You might be better off seeding some help from something like SCORE and starting on your own and then bring in a partner if you need to. Keep in mind as well that partnerships are the worst kind of businesses with the highest failure rates.
By the way if someone asked me that hypothetical question my answer would have been 3 and had I been asking that question of a potential leader I would not hire someone who answered 1. Good luck.
The "harsh" question I would ask first is whether you are the "right" person to evaluate the answers/results from any interview or test that may occur. Since leadership is first situational and second universal, the results/answers from one perspective may not fit another's scenario. For example the type (A) of leadership that may be most effective leading a tactical military unit may not work in a non-profit pediatric care unit. Hypothetical (what-if) questions yield hypothetical results and are largely useless. A candidate may answer one way and act another. If you are going to assess leadership via an interview, I would advise asking direct questions about previous experiences/situations that the candidate may have had to work through. This is called behavioral interviewing. Candidates relate their detailed experience from a situation to give you a better barometer for their behavior and what (if anything) they may have learned from the experience.
Test? Not too likely to be useful. Better to talk to people who have worked with them before, and in more than a 3-minute phone call where they tell you the usual nothings. Obviously your intended partner isn't gong to feed you anyone that will rap them, but you can still talk to those folks about what ti is like to work with the person and see what words get used. Also, since this is a pretty important decision, do some detecting of your own. Figure out where they have worked before, see if you can find anyone who is there still and try to contact them.
How would you allow him to inquire as to yours? Are you going to be cofounders who share or divide roles? What would you tell to prove yours? This is not always about filling positions with trademark characteristics. Partnerships work because of fit. Ideally, overlapping strengths that allow certain roles to be broken out by skill. Temperment is as important as ambition and remember that everyone can lie in their words but it is harder to lie in action. Put and see people in positions where you will see what you need to see...provided you have both a good mirror and a good business advisor and don't do this without help.
One recommendation is to actually give them a side-project before the co-founder position is even discussed. You should really have some type of working relationship with them. If you are not in an immediate need - actually consider someone that you already have experience with. If you don't have any working experience with your candidate - try them out with a contract or side-project.
Make sure you can actually work and get along with your business partner.
"test" is the key word. I would ask, but wouldn't put too much stock in their answers about their leadership style and what they bring to the team - answering those types of questions just tells you that they know what is required of a good leader. I feel the same way about their LinkedIn profile. I would try to test them by asking how they would approach your project and determine more from the subtext. Are they motivating you?
I also wouldn't use traditional recruitment techniques. Real leaders don't read the classified ads - they are proactively pursuing something else and you need to convince them you have a better opportunity.
One last tid bit. Exceptions of course are not that unusual, but I still think a successful friend was on to something when he told me. "Hire foot soldiers who were born and raised in the city. They are often well educated and quite competent but codependent enough to delegate to and manage. Hire leaders who come from small towns. They never pass the buck and are strong when it comes to getting rid of weak people and making tough changes when needed. They don't over-react and they lead by example."
He didn't say "only" small towns, but what he was getting at is people not raised in big cities tend to have a take charge demeanor. People raised in big cities often feel like a number and are less inclined to take charge because they have always played a small part in a larger group. Country folk make for effective tough-love bosses. Of course the counter argument would be that the leaders who emerge in the city against greater competition should be the best of all leaders. But how rare is that person?
You are looking for three things: Leader, execution and growth mindset.
1. Leadership. By definition a leader has followers. Ask him/her how many people would follow him/her to this new company. That's the acid test. Forget all this stuff about leadership style. A leader has followers; period. And, people who will leave their current job to follow them to your startup is real proof.
2. Execution. Ask for proof of projects they have started and finished. Ask for examples of projects that went out of control how they handled them.
3. Growth mindset. You got me on this one.
BTW, anyone good at what they do will be asking you those same questions. How will you prove you have those attributes? That might give you insights in how to ask for proof from them
I suggest you understand all the EXPECTATIONS from both parties, what is EXPECTED is crucial and will build TRUST.... To achieve TRUST you must understand your strengths and weaknesses compared to your perspective new partner....A leader is an excellent in getting people to go the next mile and must have vision---Be careful you do not try to hire a clone of yourself