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Spotting Leaders From A Distance

February 2021
Jan-Bart Smits
Janina Lorenci
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In a crisis, it takes a trained eye to overcome virtual challenges and find the best candidate

Recently, we placed a CEO at a mid-sized, global software company. But in what a year ago would have seemed like science fiction, the entire process was conducted virtually.

The market research was done from our researcher’s fully equipped home office, using external and internal databases. We reached out to selected candidates by mail, phone, and video conferences, which resulted in a diverse slate of candidates with different nationalities, work, and life experience. The candidates were given links to our online assessment tools, which they completed from home. At this point, we hosted another video conference in which we presented the client with the short-listed candidates, and the client made their choice. Following further one-on-one video calls between the final candidate and the client, a contract was signed.

This is the new normal in executive search for the foreseeable future, and we are proud at Stanton Chase to have quickly adapted to the parameters of remote work and social distancing in a way that ensures the highest standards of talent assessment for which we are known and trusted.

How has this transition taken place, and how do we make sure we’re constantly offering the best service to both clients and candidates? The secret lies in a combination of rigorously updated practices that utilize the best technology and our time-tested sixth-sense ability in vetting talent and finding the perfect match. 

Distance leadership

The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that there is a new set of leadership skills on the market that must be now taken into account. Strengths like resilience, adaptability, emotional intelligence, and communication are taking a front seat in the drive to lead a team successfully through a computer screen.

With body language not being as clear as in in-person meetings, the ability to read between the lines during virtual vetting is key. How does this individual present themselves? Assessing body language helps us determine whether the candidate is capable of leading in a time of accelerated digital transformation. 

“Given that many leadership roles are now playing out virtually, we must assess if candidates have the capability to lead and inspire through a screen and not just in person.”

Jan-Bart Smits, Stanton Chase International Chair

Meetings these days are about 25% shorter, mostly because people are skipping the small talk. Getting down to business might save time, but it doesn’t build a successful rapport. Working on meaningful connections with candidates through video or phone calls is crucial, as is supporting our clients in doing so.

Gauging whether the person onscreen is focused on the meeting is critical. Given that many leadership roles are now playing out virtually, we must assess if candidates have the capability to lead and inspire through a screen and not just in person. Observing how candidates handle themselves online largely reflects on their leadership capabilities in the new normal.

Engaging leaders in 2021

In 2020, this year, and going forward, leaders must demonstrate a significant ability to engage and inspire people and teams remotely. This proved the most common way of engaging with teams in 2020 and will continue to be so in 2021, especially for international teams. The percentage of companies we speak to that say they won’t go back to “the old days of travel” is almost 100%.

Stanton Chase is ready to help find the leaders who will take your organization forward and address these challenges accordingly. We’ve done so countless times in this past turbulent year, and we’ve honed the process to such a degree that clients can be confident they are really able to get to know our candidates.

The new normal has meant a lot of adjustments to executive search. At Stanton Chase, we are continuing to offer an effective, efficient selection process – one in which we stand by the client every step of the way. 

About the Authors:

Jan-Bart Smits is the International Chair of Stanton Chase, the Global Practice Leader for Technology and Professional Services, and a Managing Partner of the Amsterdam office.

Janina Lorenci is a Research Associate at the Amsterdam office of Stanton Chase.

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