Knowledge: advance your career. Hire more effectively.

Read or listen to articles published in this section and via BartonRock’s Digital Careers podcast series – also featuring interviews with high profile business leaders internationally.

7 Key Steps To Hiring A New Leader

Can they do the job?

Do they want the job?

Will they fit the culture?’

I landed on this basic framework early in my recruitment and search career. It’s admittedly high level and there will be numerous sub-headings to work through in any leadership hire but these core pillars have served me well selecting shortlists over the years.

I aim to steer clear of political opinion as a general rule but what the UK government’s dysfunctionality in recent months has taught us is the repercussions of appointing the wrong leader can be very severe.

What learnings can we draw from this which can be applied in hiring great digital leaders?

Alignment on senior hiring

A frequent challenge I encounter within companies when hiring senior leaders is agreeing on the precise remit. For example, CMOs, especially when data, digital and broader marketing are so interlinked. A lack of internal alignment on profile, decision-making authority (and therefore remit) of the candidate is the single most significant contributor to senior leaders failing, as covered in a recent article on the subject. 

Demonstrable track record

Far too much hiring takes place where intuition is the primary assessment tool. Gut feel has its place and the more experienced you are (and the more mistakes you have made) then the more you can rely on it. What is far more effective is to select prospective hires by incorporating evidence-based assessment that can determine capability, motivation and cultural fit more accurately. This doesn’t have to be an expensive or drawn-out exercise but provides far more confidence and validity to critical hiring decisions. I don’t observe enough companies drill down into a candidate’s true capabilities for the job. It’s sometimes harder to say no to hiring a candidate (when their cv tells you everything you want to read) than saying yes and keeping your fingers crossed.

Kate Thomas from sister company NewlandRock has some valuable insights into the mechanics of creating a unified team.

“In my work with global leadership teams my role is to look to enhance the effectiveness and cohesiveness of a senior leadership team by identifying new ways of working together. Building a winning team is being aligned on the goal and agreeing on how the team is going to show up to get there. Having a clear set of beliefs and behaviours that the team can agree on, helping to drive that aligned commitment and a deeper level of action.  What we’ve seen recently within the UK Government is a disparate team which no clear identity. Having a unifying leader who can drive the culture, behaviours and purpose behind a cohesive vision is critical to getting the country back on track.”

Communication is at the heart of leadership

In every culture survey I have been involved, ‘better communication’ is always one of things to be improved. Embedding vision and culture is about reinforcing your message and keeping it simple. Some of the most effective leaders I’ve seen distil complex subjects into very straightforward and easily understood language. Some are more natural and charismatic than others but as a bare minimum you have to clearly demonstrate you understand your employee and customer base and your messaging demonstrates this.

Bring your team and key stakeholders on the journey

It is virtually impossible to execute a vision to bring change for an organisation without getting the wholesale buy-in from your people. As soon as you lose your people’s belief, your ‘programme’ falls flat on its face. This comes back to effective communication but also demonstrating a level of empathy and great listening skills and a critical foundational level of trust.

People follow authentic leaders

I’ve had the privilege of working with and recruiting for some very successful leaders. I don’t just define success in financial terms. Some are very wealthy but you wouldn’t know it and these are the ones that impress me the most. They have their feet firmly on the ground, treat people with respect and are approachable – whether you are a peer, direct report or the least experienced member of the company. It creates a following in companies that I alluded to in my last point.

Walking the talk

One of the quickest ways to lose respect for a leader is for them to be seen as presenting rhetoric and not following through with action. Management speak can lead to cynicism unless you can quickly demonstrate evidence. As someone once said to me: good strategy is getting things done. Senior leaders need to bring a level of duality that sees them roll up their sleeves for a period of time to get the wheels in motion.

Purpose and values matter

Early in my career, values were words on a wall but this has changed dramatically and is especially prevalent in younger generations. With the ESG agenda becoming increasingly important, we are looking for our leaders to be purposeful and to demonstrate integrity and trust that talk to our personal perspectives. They days of pitching up to work only for a pay cheque are disappearing.

I am told not enough good people want to go into politics these days with the amount of public scrutiny. This makes it all the more important to apply learnings from the private sector to hiring the best fit available for the job.

For more help and advice contact me directly

About BartonRock: We are the executive search partner for companies where data-driven digital leadership is intrinsic to growth.

We manage the careers of leaders whose know-how and commercial acumen within digital steers the strategic direction and future survival of companies.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to implement and lead data-centric digital agendas.

For more information visit: or contact or call +44 (0) 20 8092 6048.

You can also subscribe to BartonRock’s Digital Careers podcast by visiting Apple Podcasts

Looking for support in Leadership Effectiveness? Speak to our sister company led by Kate Thomas

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