About eight years ago, I attended a job interview. It was your typical run-of-the-mill affair. The panelists just wanted to confirm that I was whom I said I was on my resume. The questions came at me fast and furious. “What is your main weakness? How do you cope when you are under pressure?” The scene was akin to the Spanish inquisition!
One thing bothered me throughout the interview. There was something wrong with the whole approach. It seemed none of the interview panelists was interested in knowing ‘who’ I am: the core of my person that is my heart, soul, and passion. Their focus was on ‘what’ I was. What had I done? What was I bringing into the organization? What this, what that… At some point, I was ready to walk off in protest if anyone of them uttered another ‘what’!
Fortunately, I got a small gap at the tail end of the interview. “Do you have anything you’d like to ask us?” asked one panelist. “More like something I want to share with you,” I replied excitedly! “I just wanted to let you know that I have a young family and my first baby on the way,” I began. Four bewildered faces stared back at me. It was like some tiny hamsters were furiously running tiny wheels in their cranium. Good sign, I had their undivided attention. “You see,” I began, “My family is central to my life and work. If any of them squeaks, I jump. They are my first priority.” You should have seen the baffled looks on their faces! It was like I had just walked into the dentist’s with a major cavity in my tooth while chewing on candy.
That is why I started to ask this question. Isn’t it time that recruiters looked beyond the papers? Some do, but where I come from not many. Now, in any recruitment process I am involved in, I try hard to learn as much as I can about an individual’s background. To try to know the person in a deeper way that goes beyond their talents and qualifications. Why is this important to me?
Human beings abhor vacuum
I find a disconnect between work and family. There seems to be an assumption that as long as one can perform well at their duties in there workplace, then they can move up the ranks and become leaders. For a few, this may be true. However, it is paramount to remember that leaders can’t develop in a vacuum. They only grow and thrive in context of their background; community and family. If any of these relationships are broken, chaos is the most probable outcome.
In mid-February this year, Kenya carried out her first-ever presidential debate. What stood out for me was not the normal political rhetoric. I was stunned when the candidates could not respond to a simple question, “Who are you?”
None could provide a credible response. They fumbled through their answers, reciting their qualifications, what they had done, hadn’t done or what they could do. None talked about growing up, or their family interactions. They came across hollow as an owl’s hoot in the dead of the night.
It left me wondering if we are molding ‘whos’ or ‘whats’. It may have been that they are driven to believe that if they have the credentials, then that could transform into credible leaders.
Leaders don’t tell a better story, they make a story better .”~ Kimunya Mugo Tweet this!
Family gives a sense of leadership potential
If you dig a little deeper into a someone’s family background, the probability of determining their leadership potential becomes higher. It exposes their ability to work in a team, to be accountable for their actions or lack thereof, and be open to opinions or different cultures. You are able to appreciate his or her clarity of their roles or responsibilities.
“Superficiality is the curse of courage…the desperate need today is not for the greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people,” notes Richard Foster. Deep people care about transformational leadership. They can be trusted, are more probable to have regular open communication, and tend to have activities outside work that involve family. Team building is a common trait amongst these people.
Susan Thorn puts this very well. “I recently hired a dynamite nurse for a new Case Management Model in a journey toward a patient centered medical home delivery of care model. She does not start for several weeks but we will be having a 7 am breakfast on Friday in my attempt to do just that. Discover how we fit into her work and family. I agree on the family. I have told employers that if ‘I give 100% to my family when they need it, I will always be able to give 100% while I am here’. And I tell my staff the same. Family always comes first!”
When you can say who you are…
This I believe is the missing link in the evolution of a leader. It is that sense of self-awareness. One does not walk around trying to seek power in material things or power. Knowing who you are helps in identifying with a cause and provides an opportunity to lead. Remember, people don’t buy into what you do but why you do it…the missing link in leadership.
There are those who lead. They inspire us. We follow because we want to and not because we have to. Remember, leaders don’t tell a better story, they make a story better.
Are you bridging the missing link in your leadership evolution process? Are you looking for ‘what’ rather than ‘who’? What are you going to do different in your leadership development pursuits? Let’s keep the discussion going…