hiring disconformity

The hiring process for new employees in most organisations is highly procedurised. There are checks in place along the way to ensure that the right candidate is selected for each available position; both functional and psychosocial fit are considered carefully.

As we move up the hierarchy, this careful process of checking and cross-checking candidates suddenly ceases to apply. It is as if an unconformity - to borrow a geological concept - has been crossed.

At the most senior level, a lot of organisations seem to hire on spurious identity-based grounds. Any checks and attempts to match selection criteria is at best perfunctory and ceremonial, and at worst dispensed with completely. A handshake after a game of golf, perhaps.

Critical factors like competence, integrity, capability, leadership qualities, emotional maturity, (psychological stability!) can be eschewed in favour of identity factors like the right race, the right religion, the right club/alma mater, the right professional associations, or even the right narrative on LinkedIn and other social media and publicity platforms.

This preference for feel-good identity hiring, often enabled by glowing celebrity-styled PR profiles, and buoyed by the spurious petard of leadership exceptionalism, opens the door for incompetent, corrupt, or actively destructive leaders to infect organisations. It is the means by which psychopathic, parasitic, and vampire CEOs continue to prosper despite leaving a string of failures behind them.

We see the same idiotic and self-destructive practice none more publicly than in politics. Many political leaders, especially in recent times, come across as people who will probably never be able to get a job in a lower-level department.

Perhaps a useful litmus test for hiring a leader is this: if a candidate is unable to pass the hiring checks* at a lower level of the hiring organisation, they are unsuitable for the leadership position.

* Especially checks relating to a person’s baseline competence, ethics, interpersonal/teamwork skills, ability to be organised, empathy, self-directedness, willingness to seek advice, EQ maturity and the ability to be self-reflective, and personal accountability.