Fire your managers, recruit future leaders.

Business Insider wrote a piece this week on how useless most managers are and how difficult it is to recruit future leaders. We have built a top down “command and control” hierarchy that stifles innovation and makes us highly susceptible to being out-innovated.

Companies are being creatively destroyed by more innovative upstarts. The only way to change this trend and future proof your company is to recruit future leaders or “emergent leaders”, rather than hiring traditional managers based on a previous role title.

Oh, that and wear a hoodie to work, put a ping pong table in the common area, and talk repeatedly about failing fast.


Hire for attributes, train for skills.


Google set out to prove managers were evil, but ended up realising the opposite. Managers were critical, but the skills we thought they needed were irrelevant for today.

They look for emergent leadership, which is a mix of cognitive ability (critical thinking, numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning), conscientiousness, empathy, extroversion, openness to experience, and a small dose of humility. All of which can be easily test for with high accuracy when following a structured approach.


I’m hiring!… for the role of smart, open and honest.


The biggest challenge though, is that the traditional employment processes and supporting technology encourages hiring based on transferable role titles and skills. It is difficult to post an advert and ask people with certain “attributes” to apply, since that is not what job seekers are searching online for.

To truly recruit future leaders for an organisation one must hire for attributes, and train for skills. The long term cost is far higher to businesses that hire on skills and get the attributes wrong.

This requires a change in mindset, recruitment team processes, and talent sourcing approaches, but companies that don’t adopt it from today will find themselves out innovated by those that are already doing it.

What LiveHire sees on the talent demand side from innovative companies, is they are launching and growing Talent Communities to tackle the issue from the bottom up. That being; casting the net wide with an “open door policy” to encourage diverse talent to join their Talent Community. They then look for people with signs of “emergent leadership” to become future leaders (quickly) rather than hiring for “experiential leadership” and getting it wrong 3 times out of 4.


Recruit future leaders, then help them grow fast.

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Here is a methodology to foster and grow the right attributes in your future leaders, fast:

  1. Put a good Organisational Psychologist on your People Operations team, or consult one. Instil a philosophy and hiring approach to test and hire for the right attributes for your business. For example at LiveHire, we hire for cognitive ability, contentiousness, empathy, honesty, and signs of an interesting or courageous path in life.
  2. Ensure your employees work in cross collaborative teams to a regular rhythm (say 3 month sprints) and constantly mix up the relationships they have.
  3. Ask all team members to provide quantitative feedback on each other (and their manager) from a well structured (and short) set of questions at the end of each sprint. Use this feedback to have a conversation with each employee on how they can develop during the next sprint. People love developing, and you will retain more of your team.
  4. Employ or consult with a data analyst on your People Operations team to help you get the most insights out of the continual, structured feedback data.
  5. Within 3-4 periods, it will become very clear who your emergent leaders are.


Rinse, repeat, innovate, winning.

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