The Broken Bridge.

This week a good friend of mine went through the last interview for a leadership role with a large multinational company.

He was very excited about this opportunity and I was very happy for him, as he is a thought leader who firmly believes in the importance of humanity in the corporate world.

It seems that during the job interview he was asked what his leadership style was like.

His response was pretty straightforward:

“I have a humanistic leadership style. I focus on fulfilling the needs of those around me.

I firmly believe that if we manage to fulfill the needs of our employees, they will be fully engaged, and as a result, our Customers will be more satisfied and engaged too.”

“At the end of the day, I think that fully engaged employees and satisfied Customers will inevitably lead to better long-term profitability and overall company results. That´s my leadership philosophy.”

At the end of the interview, he was also allowed to ask questions.

His first question was quite straightforward too: What is your leadership style?

The Global Managing Director answer was:

“I must confess that I am a little bit picky. Not too much I´d say, but to give you an example, I can´t stand people using the incorrect template for a business presentation, instead of the standard one that I created myself. I review all presentations personally.

“Also, if I see that someone has made a typo in their out of office, I call them straight away. I don´t care if they are off on annual leave, I ask them to correct the typo immediately.”

“I do not tolerate this sort of things at all. It hurts the company image; if someone outside the organization sees the typo, they might get the impression that we don´t care about the details.”

The answer automatically revealed a clear incompatibility between their respective leadership styles that would have eventually caused a tremendous amount of friction and surely would have led to a quite dramatic end, sooner rather than later, I bet. We all have been there before!

The following morning my friend got a call from someone at the company. They wanted to thank him for his interest in the role, but they did not want to proceed with the offer, as they thought he was “too senior” for the role.

The truth is that someone was smart enough to realize the mismatch and decided to prevent the pain before it truly hurts.

My friend called me after the interview to share the news. I could tell from the way he sounded, that he was going thru a quite sweet and sour mix of feelings. He asked me whether I thought he had screwed up or not.

I told my friend that he should thank the hiring manager for this decision, and also applaud him for his courage to confront the reality as soon as it came up.

Their Culture bridge was broken!

One of the most common mistakes we all make when going through an interview for a senior role is to avoid asking the right questions, to the right people and at the right time.

We don´t want to screw up and therefore, we avoid asking the most critical question? Is there a Cultural fit between us?

The sooner you realize the mismatch between the company Culture and your leadership style, the better for everyone, as it will inevitably end up causing disappointment to all parties involved, above and below your role.

Most of you know that I continuously indoctrinate the importance of humanity in corporate leadership and always insist that satisfying human needs is the essence to exceptional leadership.

But it is also quite important to emphasize that leadership style in the corporate world is very much dependent on what culture each company instills, and Culture tends to be a quite accurate reflection of corporate priorities.

Let´s review some examples:

Control freaks make a good fit and grow their careers quite rapidly in companies where “control-freak-ism” is a top priority.

Typically those companies owned by investment funds, operating in the stock market and where shareholders return is the top priority, tend to hire and promote control-freaks. Nothing wrong with that, as long as the control freaks also hire people who enjoy being managed from a close distance , who require supervision and can deal with a constant lack of authority.

Collaborative leaders make a strong fit in those companies focused on customer intimacy and service excellence.

Companies striving to differentiate thru Customer proximity and service excellence will more likely promote a collaborative Culture. This type of company will also need to focus on hiring people who are happy to leave their egos at home and, are willing to work towards common benefits, “no matter who gets the credit” mind-sets.

Innovative leaders do very well in companies where disruptive innovation is seen as the key to differentiate their business from their competition.

These companies should focus on hiring highly creative minds and invest in the cultivation of their employees through constant training and talent development.

I´m not going to debate what culture is best, as it all depends on what the company is trying to achieve.

Sometimes a combination of cultures can help obtain the best corporate result for both ends.

What truly matters is that companies and new hires work closely towards Cultural alignment. If the Culture bridge is broken, companies and employees will find it impossible to achieve their respective goals.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, “Leadership. The sum of 3 human essentials” and “The Golden Rule to Exceptional Leadership”, leading is about fulfilling human needs.

Thus, I am very happy for my friend, as well as for the company that interviewed him for the job, as they managed to realize that “Their Bridge Was Completety Broken” at the right time.

You have saved each other a lot of trouble and frustration! Well done!

I hope you enjoyed the reading. If so, please don´t forget to share it and click on “Like”. Thanks.

You may also like to read my recent posts on Linkedin.

Jordi is the Managing Principal Consultant at Key SChain Solutions, a management consulting firm specializing in Organizational Strategy, Portfolio Management and Operational Excellence.

Best regards,

Jordi Alemany

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