Preparing the leadership pipeline

Open the pages of most newspapers on any given day and you will invariably be met with a plethora of news stories bemoaning the state of the care system in this country – often with little to discriminate between the public and independent sectors.

Much of the criticism levied is concerned with the current state of its leadership – rather fears over the sector’s ability to fulfil its leadership requirements over the long term.

So how can care organisations ensure they fill their talent pipelines with high quality candidates with the potential to become tomorrow’s social or healthcare leaders? It starts at the recruitment stage.

Whilst most businesses monitor performance and leadership potential once a candidate becomes an employee, few employers take this into account during the interview stage.

Yet doing so can reduce the risk of recruiting unsuitable candidates or realising later down the line that the company has not adequately prepared an appropriate successor to fill its leadership vacuum.

There are three broad parameters that will help hiring managers to identify which candidates have the highest potential to become future leaders of the organisation:

  • Ability – their ability to acquire new leadership skills within a realistic time frame
  • Ambition – their aspirations to rise to higher levels of leadership and responsibility in a company
  • Company culture – whether they’re a right fit for the cultural and behavioural framework of the organisation

Here we will discuss each one of these in turn.

Determining leadership ability:

To determine leadership potential, hiring managers must understand exactly what constitutes leadership within the business. This means having to go beyond a candidate’s current competencies and objectively looking at their previous experiences, considering how many roles they have had, whether they have changed roles or companies and if so, how many times and how often.

Having a new role, particularly a promotion or increase in responsibilities for instance, indicates that a candidate is curious, eager to take up new challenges, and capable of delivering results for their employing organisation.

Understand their ambitions:

Having ambition and one eye firmly fixed on their future will distinguish a high-potential candidate from someone who is simply very good – the latter will invariably do very well in their immediate role and may even progress into middle management, but they won’t become the future leader that you need.

Hiring managers have to identify what motivates a candidate. In doing so you get to reveal what will make them stay for the long haul. Probe candidates to better understand (and manage) their short and long term career expectations.

If a candidate is really interested in his or her own career development they will be willing to go the extra mile and there will already be signs of them doing just that during their career to date.

Considering candidate ‘fit’:

A high-potential individual can only shine within the right circumstances and settings. That’s where gaining an understanding of a candidate’s personality and values and how they ‘fit’ with your organisaton’s culture is imperative. The sad truth is that often the person applying for the job is ‘different’ to the person who shows up for interview.

So you need to be sure you’re hiring the one who will ultimately be doing the job: How do their beliefs and values align with those of their potential new colleagues, could they fit effortlessly into the team or are they likely to be problematic? Do they show their understanding of your company culture and if so, are they able to demonstrate how their approach to work will add value to your organisation’s culture?


Hiring managers must avoid focusing on the short-term objective of filling a role. Instead, taking a longer-term, all-encompassing approach to recruitment will enable them to stay ahead in the race for top talent across the care sector.