4 Ways to Avoid Senior Leadership Failure Rate by Emphasizing Culture Fit

senior leader

According to a study by the Center of Creative Leadership, nearly 40% of senior leaders fail in their first 18 months on the job. Nearly 40%! The primary reasons for this astoundingly high number is not so much a reflection of their abilities, but instead “how” they lead and “how” they get things done. Each organization and sub-organization within companies has unique cultures or “organizational personalities” that really define the bias for HOW they work.

In some cases a leader is hired to “fit” the current culture and in other cases a leader is hired as a change agent. In either case, it’s critical to understand your organization’s culture and the corresponding cultural bias of the candidates.  Most organizations tend to overemphasize the competency and experience of leaders and don’t account enough for the cultural fit– which leads to the 40% failure rate.

There are there 4 key steps to avoid this failure rate:

  • Understand the culture and sub-cultures of the organization where your hired leader will interface (e.g., what is the overall culture of the leadership team / his or her peers, the cultures of the different sub-organizations they will be managing).
  • Determine Change Objective – what changes, if any, need to be made around how work gets done in the group they are managing (e.g., we would like this group to have more of a sales orientation) or is it simply a leader that “fits” the current culture.
  • Determine a set of potential personality profile fits that could be viable given the change objective.
  • Use an individual profiles / cultural fit tool early in the screening process on an equal basis with competency and experience.  Eliminate candidates that are not a cultural fit early in the process.

To enable this process to work effectively, it’s critical to have a tested and proven approach for quickly determining both the organization’s culture and assessing candidates. M&A Executive Search has proprietary tools that we have used for years in our search process and are major reason for our 97% success rate on placed candidates. Culture fit simply cannot be ignored when hiring new leaders at an organization.


Find out what your organizational culture is by using M&A’s preliminary culture survey
(takes 2-3 minutes)


Please contact us for more information regarding our approach for helping companies hire the right candidates with the best skills and experience AND the candidates that are the best cultural fit given your organizational situation.

Greg Albrecht: galbrecht@maexecsearch.com

Chandler McCoy: cmccoy@maexecsearch.com

David Magnani: dmagnani@maexecsearch.com