Recruiters can help spot executive derailment traits

There may be many reasons why some executives do not stay at the top for long but recruiters are ideally placed to spot derailing behaviours early on.

July 2012 | By Colin Cottell

There may be many reasons why some executives do not stay at the top for long but recruiters are ideally placed to spot derailing behaviours early on.

Recruiters have a vital role to play to reduce the phenomenon of executive derailment, according to Professor Adrian Furnham, an expert on management psychology. 

Speaking at an Arrows Group HR Matters event in the City of London last month, Furnham said executive derailment was “the elephant in the boardroom” and a primary reason why the average tenure of chief executives was four and a half years, and why 40% failed in their first 18 months.

He explained that whereas many executives fail because they lacked an essential quality or talent — for example, they weren’t bright enough — many senior executives also fail because they had “too much of something”.

One example was self-esteem, said Furnham. While absolutely essential in a CEO, too much could cross the line into narcissism, which was very dangerous for the organisation, he said. Similarly, there was a thin line between cautious/sensible and paranoid. 

Furnham added that often it was the very characteristics that got people to the top “of the greasy pole”, such as boldness, that led to senior executives exiting their jobs. 

Furnham said that recruiters were ideally placed to spot traits in senior executives that might lead to derailment.  

He urged: “Don’t be sacred [about] using intelligence tests and other measures to pick up this stuff.” Recruiters also have access to tests, such as The Hogan Challenge Report, a methodology that predicts career-derailing behaviours.

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