Choosing Leaders and Choosing to Lead
Science, Politics and Intuition in Executive Selection
Some of the worst selection practices to be found anywhere can be found at the top of organisations. Even when senior selection is not egregiously bad, rarely is it as good as it could be. Front-line staff and middle managers are selected with much more rigour today than 30 years ago - but not the chairmen, chief executives and chief officers who lead them. So says Douglas Board in Choosing Leaders and Choosing to Lead. Dr Board draws on his extensive experience in executive search and in leadership, coupled with his own academic research embracing the sociology and psychology of scholars such as Pierre Bourdieu and Karl Weick to offer ground-breaking insight into the value and limitations of established selection practice. This book illuminates ways in which senior roles differ from other positions and will help those charged with selecting individuals for senior positions, as well as potential candidates, those concerned with regulating selection policy, and researchers. Examining the classic mix of competency frameworks and selection tools such as psychological and skills assessments, simulations, reference-checking and interviews, the author concludes that senior selection choices are holding back organisations and individual careers, with implications for diversity, effectiveness, and social justice. He contends that while complacent, self-regarding elites will always need vigilant challenge, the scientific approach to selection has weaknesses as well as strengths. Those weaknesses become more pronounced at senior levels, posing particular questions about, amongst other things, the role of intuition and politics.
Table of Contents
Contents: Foreword; Preface; Part I From Bad to Good to Stuck: From bad...; ...to good; ...to stuck. Part II What's Different About Senior Roles?: Complexity, humility and responsibility; Power and politics; A deeper crisis. Part III Re-Thinking Fundamentals: Skill and intuition; Games, skill and belonging; Re-thinking science and leader selection. Part IV So What?: The candidate's perspective; The selector's and society's perspective. Part V Notes: Field notes for candidates; Field notes for selectors. Academic notes; Works cited; Index.
After working in the UK Treasury and 18 years of practice in executive search, Douglas Board completed a professional doctorate in senior selection. His approach to the subject reflects a wealth of selection experience across the private, public, voluntary and academic sectors, and he has sat in all the chairs at the selection table - candidate, appointing manager, selection expert, head hunter, and now researcher. Dr Board founded Maslow's Attic Ltd which provides expert advice to individuals on lateral or creative career change. He is a senior visiting fellow at Cass Business School, City University London. Previously he was deputy chairman of the executive search firm Saxton Bampfylde. In 2007 he became Chair of the Refugee Council. His first degrees were from Cambridge and Harvard, and his doctorate in management was undertaken at the Complexity and Management Centre at the University of Hertfordshire.
'If you think all the right people get appointed to the top jobs, you might want to skip this book. Otherwise read it. It asks how the advances in recruitment practice of the last 50 years can be extended upwards to the recruitment of top leaders. Thought out without being dried out, practical without being puerile, it is full of good stories and deep thoughts, a good read, and at the same time it takes us forward on one of the most important questions for the twenty-first century.' David Sims, Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Cass Business School 'Douglas Board bridges from practical experience to modern philosophy and social thought to address one of the major (unrecognized) issues of society today - how do we best choose the leaders of our major institutions? He builds a rich theory and practice around expertise and intuition, of both the leader and the selector.' David Newkirk, CEO of Executive Education, Darden School of Business and formerly senior vice president at Booz & Co 'This book provides a rare and at times uncomfortable insight into the world of executive selection. Thought provoking and challenging in equal measure - it should be essential reading for all practitioners and researchers working in personnel selection.' Jo Silvester PhD CPsychol, Professor of Organisational Psychology, City University London, UK 'Douglas Board takes us far beyond the lab. Travelling from the playground to the boardroom, he blends first-hand executive search experience with contemporary social science thinking to highlight where executive selection decision-making is stuck and how it could be unstuck. Bravo!' Ralph A Mortensen PhD ABPP, Chief Psychologist HR/OD, IPAT Inc ’...Anyone who wants a senior role, or who has the responsibility for appointing someone else to one, should make it their business to read this engaging but challenging, readable but unsettling, philosophical but thoroughly practical book.’ Cass Business School