One good thing to look for in a leader

Often the useless question of tell us about a time you succeeded is asked of potential leaders. Maybe we should ask about how they turned a failure around.


Mike Conley

12/14/20231 min read

woman holding white mug while standing
woman holding white mug while standing

The goal when hiring a leader, is to find a great one. So what is one great question to ask?

Lots of CEO’s like to ask leadership candidates how they dismissed a under-performing employee. Or to describe a situation where they failed as a leader.

Interesting questions, but I don’t believe those questions really help determine if someone is really a good leader. Leading isn't just about failing or firing. It's about inspiring others to do better.

I think a better question is: As a leader, how did you turn around the career of a under-performing employee?

A good leader doesn’t just fire someone the company has invested a great deal of time and money in if there is a potential to turn things around. A great leader needs to be able to assess that potential and, if there is any, come up with a plan to draw it out. Give them a rope and see what comes of it, so to speak.

For any leaders that have not done this, I urge you to consider this approach the next time you find yourself in this situation. I’ve found some amazing people that others would have just fired. And it was far cheaper than hiring new candidates.

Does it always work? Absolutely not. But when it does, it feels amazing and you earn the trust of your employees. And in my humble opinion, it’s a sign of an outstanding leader.