Hiring and Promoting Self-Aware Leaders

“First Who, Then What” is an idea discussed in the Jim Collin’s book Good to Great.  It( is the healthiest of (any) personality style that causes the least grief to colleagues. Developing skills to test for this health in interviews is critical. 

Probing for Self-Awareness


Attributes / Behaviors Visible on the Surface

Overdone Strength

Questions to Probe for


Shares a lot of details, has integrity, is guided by a desire to be right and correct


When have you been able to let go of the perfect for the sake of the good, and why is this important in managing people?  What’s an example of you being overly self-critical, and how did you manage this attitude? 

Highly empathetic and caring with other people


Where’s the line for you between supporting other people, and ensuring they stand on their own two feet?  How do you work with others who are not emotionally self-aware?

Self-possessed, clearly successful, managing how perceived

Me over the we

What’s a great lesson you learned from failure, and how did you apply it?  How do you promote others and let them shine? 

Emotive, creative, expressive, imaginative – walks to own beat


When you get down, how do you pull yourself up?  How do you handle situations where others recoil at unique expressiveness?

Intelligent, analytical, perceptive, sometimes a loner

Disconnect from others

How do you connect and build relationships with others, even when it’s hard or you don’t want to?  How do express when you don’t have all the facts or haven’t made up your mind, yet others want to know your thinking?

Egoless – it’s about the team; reliable, dutiful, sometimes anxious

Playing it safe; vacillation

When negative scenarios are playing out in your mind, how do you shift your thinking to what’s possible?  How do you know the difference between healthy trouble shooting and feeding fear?

Playful, connector, intensive curiosity, positive – people person

Fingers in everything

What signals let you know the organizational tolerance for change is at a stress point?  How do you maintain tasks once initial excitement passes?  How does your easy joy empower others?

Decisive, direct, transparent, authoritative


How do you rebuild trust when someone has seriously let you down?  How do you know when your passion might unwittingly intimidate others?  Howe do you demonstrate real empathy for others when they are learning?

Cooperative, oblique,  smiling, values harmony and respect

Conflict adverse

What’s an example of you ensuring ‘productive conflict’ happens on a team?  How do you unify opposing views when others are not cooperative?