In a business staffed sparsely as senior living, it’s important to hire good frontline employees. And it’s absolutely essential to land good leaders.

But the way many organizations fill in their executive ranks leaves more than a bit to be desired. All too often, promotions are a reward for past performance, with little thought as to whether chosen candidates are likely to succeed in a new role.

The inevitable result? There are a lot of people running senior living businesses who are, frankly, not very good at what they do. I know, I know, not at your community. But believe me, they are out there.

So what’s to be done here? A recent paper in the Harvard Business Review notes that managerial incompetence stems in no small part from a failure to ask three important questions during the hiring phase. Here they are, according to authors Josh Bersin and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic:

  • Does the candidate have the skills to be a high-performing contributor or the skills to be an effective leader?
  • Can I really trust this candidate’s individual performance measures?
  • Am I looking forward or backward?

What firms really need to do, they say, is place “misfits” or “people who think differently” into leadership roles.

They also advise organizations such as yours to take a second look at the people who might not seem to be ready — and analyze them on the basis of their ambition, reputation and passion for your business. As the authors note, it is often the youngest, most agile and most confident people who become amazing leaders, even if their track record is less than stellar. Think Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs.

This is fairly profound stuff. They are essentially calling on senior living organizations and others to rethink the entire notion of leadership. Forget the easy prompt and focus more on the kinds of people who actually will get you where you want to go, they say.

That requires some hard thinking, as well as a willingness to look beyond resume bullet points. But the payoff can more than justify the extra effort.