An HR manager, a politician and a business executive walk into a bar to choose the next CEO of Barclays, Archbishop of Canterbury or head of your kids' school... take your pick. The last forty years have seen major changes in the way people are chosen to fill front-line or middle management jobs. We now have job descriptions, person specifications and competencies. Interviews sit alongside ability tests, psychometric profiles, job simulations or '360 feedback'. But how people get selected for jobs at the top of organisations has changed very little. Why? Are we choosing leaders badly, and if so, could we do better. Douglas Board argues 'yes'.
This lecture is based on the author's doctoral research into his experience as a board-level headhunter. Over 18 years he recruited leaders for a diversity of organisations - household-name retailers and NHS trusts, banks and universities, government departments and charities. A way of understanding our skills, our thinking and our acting (and our science) is proposed based on the concept of 'practice' as developed by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930 - 2002). Seeing differently the place of science, politics and intuition in our lives and our society, clarifies why leadership selection is stuck and how it could change. It also offers insights into ourselves.
Dr Douglas Board specialises in career change and leadership coaching, and is the founder of Maslow’s Attic Ltd (maslowsattic.com). He is a senior visiting fellow at Cass Business School. After receiving degrees from Cambridge and Harvard, Douglas worked as a fast-stream civil servant in the UK Treasury and then for 18 years as a headhunter, becoming deputy chairman of a 50 person London firm. Since then he gained a doctorate in management and writes from time to time for the FT on leadership, careers and selection. His book ‘Choosing Leaders and Choosing to Lead: Science, Politics and Intuition in Executive Selection’ was published in 2012 by Gower, and is co-writing with Rob Warwick a book on leadership and knowledge to be published in 2013. From 2007 to 2012 he was chair of the Refugee Council, Britain’s largest refugee and asylum charity.