skip to main content
Business Journal
Tough Task: Recruiting Top Leaders From Other Companies
Business Journal

Tough Task: Recruiting Top Leaders From Other Companies

by Brandon Rigoni and Bailey Nelson

Story Highlights

  • Leaders are the least likely people to consider a new company
  • The job factors that leaders want differ from other workers
  • Companies have to appeal to leaders' unique needs

To build a workforce of star performers, companies need to understand and act on the key factors that can make them irresistible to top leadership candidates.

Attracting top talent is one of the primary elements of an effective human capital strategy. Employers can only hire the best if these exceptional individuals choose them over the competition.

Unfortunately, convincing talented leaders that your company is the best one for them can be a challenge. Gallup recently found that leaders -- those who manage other managers -- are significantly less likely than managers and individual contributors to be open to accepting a job with a different organization. Though 55% of managers and employees report that they are either actively looking for a different job than the one they have now or watching for job opportunities, only 34% of leaders in the workforce state the same.


What Leaders Are Looking For

Because only about one in three leaders are actively looking for a job or watching for new opportunities, companies seeking to attract world-class leadership candidates need to be thoughtful and focused in their messaging. They must understand which workplace elements matter most to leaders and then apply these findings to show candidates why they should choose their organization.

Here's what leaders tend to look for in a workplace, according to Gallup's research:

Opportunities to use their strengths. All employees are more likely to thrive in a strengths-based culture. Gallup research shows that people who use their strengths every day are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life and six times more likely to be engaged at work. They're also 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.

These findings also apply to leaders, who may have a deeper awareness of the importance of using their strengths than other employees. When Gallup asked leaders to indicate how important it is for a company to allow them to do what they do best when considering whether to take a job with a different organization, 72% of leaders indicated it is "very important."

Most successful leaders understand instinctively that a strengths-based approach works because they honed in on the things they did exceptionally well early in their working life. Leaders know their strengths, and they want to use them every day.

Companies that identify leaders' strengths and position them to do what they do best demonstrate a commitment to a strengths-based approach to their current leaders, and they can communicate that commitment in their messaging to attract candidates who also want to do what they do best each day. For example, if a company wants to attract a leader with a great mind for new ideas, it could communicate how similar leaders have thrived in the organization because the company gave them the freedom to make things happen and supported them with staff who could bring those ideas to life.

Using a strengths-based approach to leadership is a proven strategy to maximize talent and attract potential stars.

A strong organizational brand. When leaders are considering whether to take a job, they are 45% more likely than managers and individual contributors to report that organizational brand is very important to them. Great leaders care about developing distinct, compelling brands for both their personal brand and their company's. They know and respect the power of a strong brand for engaging customers and prospects.

A strong organizational brand is especially appealing when companies recruit leaders. To ensure a company is "living" the brand in a way that will resonate with leaders, it should assess the strengths of its organizational identity; ensure that its purpose, brand, and culture are aligned; and communicate its emphasis on living the brand to potential leadership hires.

Autonomy. Leaders considering a job with a different company are 49% more likely than managers and individual contributors to feel that it's very important that a role gives them greater autonomy. Leaders desire the freedom to shape and implement strategic plans according to their experiences and the best practices they've learned. Great leaders know that with autonomy, they can do more of what they do best every day.

By communicating how the company prioritizes and values autonomy for workers, organizations let potential leadership hires know they will be free to use their strengths to guide employees and be a part of an organizational culture that brings out the best in each person.

Attracting a talented leader's interest might be challenging. But by emphasizing the right workplace elements, companies can better appeal to -- and hire -- the best of the best.

Sangeeta Agrawal contributed to the research in this article.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030