Hiring for a Situational Leadership® Mindset

With the “Great Resignation,” hiring managers and talent acquisition professionals are using every trick in the book and tool in their chest to fill record numbers of vacancies. They are looking for candidates who are not only proficient in the current skillset but who also show an affinity for learning (and quickly conquering) the future skillset, still emerging. At the same time, they wisely keep an eye out for “cultural fit,” so they don’t need to repeat the search again in 3-6 months.

It makes sense that if Situational Leadership® is part of your organization’s leadership development culture and language, it could greatly benefit your recruitment (and retention) efforts if you were to check for this leadership approach and its invaluable competencies in candidates before you hire.

So, how do you interview to discern whether someone will fit and thrive in a Situational Leadership® culture and workplace?

The beauty of Situational Leadership® is that it helps leaders address the success and engagement of those they influence. We assess a person’s Performance Readiness® by looking separately at their ability (knowledge, experience, skill) and willingness (confidence, commitment, motivation) for a specific task. Let’s apply that approach to the interview process.

First, explore their ability. There are plenty of questions that can uncover someone’s competency for the tasks that will be needed for the role. You can also explore their aptitude for new skills that are anticipated for the job as the organization adopts new technologies, streamlines processes and so on:

  • How familiar are you with the X process? Describe how you have done it in the past …
  • When did you learn to X? Tell me about (the course, your certification, the training, your mentor) …
  • How much experience do you have with X? Tell me about a time when (something went wrong) and how you handled it for a positive outcome
  • How does your recent course work (online, college, university, internships, etc.) support what you would do in this role?
  • Tell me about something you (discovered, changed, created, solved) that improved this (process, program, deliverable) for a previous employer?
  • What would be most challenging for you in this role? Why?

Ability questions should highlight current skill as well as potential and capacity. If you are in HR, interviewing for a specific function you are not intimately familiar with, the hiring manager should provide you targeted questions, as well as key phrases, concepts and language to be listening for.

Second, explore their willingness. These questions should enable the candidate to share about what (you trust!) motivates and excites them about the work they will do in this role:

  • How might this role allow you to demonstrate your strengths?
  • What skills would you look forward to developing in this role?
  • What about our company/organization (or values/mission) resonates most with you?

What people are looking for from work varies and is greatly influenced by their situation or season of life. For some, extrinsic motivators are paramount, such as pay scale, benefits or having remote/hybrid flexibility. For others, intrinsic motivators have final authority, such as work that supports their personal mission and values or that provides a certain level of challenge and/or responsibility. Ask questions that discern the candidate’s strongest felt need for tasks they will need to complete in the given role.

  • What would you enjoy most about this role? What would you enjoy least?
  • Tell me about a time you conquered a loss of energy or interest in a task to complete it in a manner you were proud of
  • What do you do when you aren’t sure what to do?

Traditionally, interviews have focused on assessing ability—the candidate’s knowledge, experience and skill—to determine if they will be successful in the role. The last ten or more years’ measurement of and focus on employee engagement reinforces the equal or even greater importance of willingness factors in the hiring process.

Third, get a sense of their leadership. It has long been said that the Situational Leadership® Model is “organized common sense.” Thus, even if the candidate hasn’t attended one of our courses, here are some strategic questions that can help you find people who might already be leading with a Situational Leadership® mindset:

  • Do you believe you need a particular title or level of authority to be a leader?
  • Describe a time when you used your influence to bring a struggling objective or project to a successful completion
  • Which word would you say describes your primary leadership style: guiding, coaching, encouraging or entrusting? Share an example to help us understand your choice
  • Describe a situation where you adapted your leadership style to meet the needs of the person or team you were leading and achieved a better result
  • What do you look for and appreciate most in your leader/manager?

Situational Leadership® is a valuable tool to help you interview and hire employees who will fit and and thrive in your organization. Use this approach to attract and empower new people to be so successful and engaged that they reverse the “Great Resignation” by creating a “great culture.”