Leadership Readiness: Do You Measure For Fit?


December 1, 2011

As a speaker at The Conference Board’s recent Senior HR Executive Conference, I had the opportunity to hear several other HR leaders speak about their approaches to development of their leaders. One speaker that caught my attention was Susan Schmitt.  Susan is the SVP of HR at Rockwell Automation.

While most organizations focus on leadership capabilities as they develop their management team, Susan shared a story of an exercise she went through in which several HR leaders from various companies found that the leadership capabilities they used at their organizations were almost identical to each other.  With that knowledge, Rockwell decided to look beyond the capabilities they were using and determine what ultimately drove successful leaders.

Instead of focusing on just the core leadership capabilities, they added elements that focused on fit:

  • Skills, knowledge, experience and education-  These are traditional core leadership capabilities you look for in any organization.  Still highly important, but you need to take it a step further.
  • Information processing capability- Ability to manage the complexity of the work.  This element determines if the leader, or potential leader, can handle increasing levels of volitality, uncertainty, complexity and abiguity in their work.
  • Temperament- This is the point that Rockwell began to diverge from the traditional leadership capabilities.  They use specific techniques to focus on extremes in behavior that can inhibit or derail the leader’s success.  If it is found that someone has a temperament that is not conducive to successful leadership, they work on that capability or they are not promoted to the next level.
  • Commitment-  Does the leader value the work and demands associated with the role?  If you cannot answer this in the affirmative, then you will not have long-term success with this leader.

While not widely used grouped in this way, I believe that Rockwell Automation is on a path to building successful leaders.  What elements does your organization use to determine the temperament or commitment of your leaders and people on the leadership track?  Would you prevent someone from being promoted to a leadership role if they did not have the temperament to deal effectively with people?

Share your ideas, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  • We look for leadership capabilities in all of our hires. In addition to those elements noted in this article, we screen candidates at the initial stage for Culture Fit. We have found that employees are more committed to the company and to the job if they are working at a company which aligns with their core values and provides an opportunity to make a difference.

    In a small company such as ours, focusing on our values and on relationships makes the work day enjoyable for everyone and contributes to the company’s success.

  • There is a short whitepaper on the fundamental core skills a leaders needs to develop for a VUCA world. (Volitile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) It’s interesting to see these concepts raised in 2011, as they were first introduced at the Army War College in the 1990’s. The whitepaper is at http://www.apexperform.com. It was written by Dr. Louis Csoka who is an expert on neuroleadership.

    Dr. Csoka was also the head of the HR Research Department at The Conference Board and SVP of HR at New Holland, a US subsidiary of FIAT, based in London. He saw executives deal with VUCA first hand.

    HE developed his work in neuroleadership as a Colonel teach leadership at West Point.

    It’s a great read.

  • Great post, and questions too! Measuring and assessing the intangibles like temperament and “cultural fit” continues to be a very hot topic in HR circles. While most organizations (mine included) have either been using or have begun to use some of these measures, we should keep an eye on the potential for reducing diversity of thought and communication styles by making these measues an exercise in conformity. Think of how boring it would be to be in a leadership meeting knowing everyone jumped through the exact same hoops and everyone was assessed as having the same behavioral and communication styles! I’ll take leadership (and work) teams that challenge and stretch each other over those that conform to a prescribed assessment pattern. But that’s just me 🙂

  • Thanks so much for your kind post regarding my presentation at the Conference Board session a few weeks ago. These concepts are based on 55 years of research often known as Requisite Organization (Dr. Elliott Jacques). Excellent work and we are finding it to be an incredibly more useful way for assessing suitability for all roles, not just leadership roles, than the traditional competency models. Thanks again!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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