Tua’s Performance Shows You What You Need to Consider When Assessing Leadership Skill

It was the debate across college football leading up to opening weekend.  Or least in my house it was.

Who would start at quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide?  Tua or Jalen?

Jalen led the Tide to one national championship and touts a 26-2 record as a starter.  Tua came in and saved the day to help the tide defeat Clemson in the national championship last year when it seemed as though Jalen just couldn’t get it done.

They are obviously both exceptional players and leaders, but what would make the difference in Saban’s decision making on who would start in the season opener against Louisville?

Across this debate, Kirk Herbstreit may have summed up the decision of who to play best on Gameday:

“…you have a quarterback in Tua that has an ability to process information quickly… and when you have a quarterback that sees things quickly, that can get the ball to the receiver, tight end or the running back….(tennis racket interruption, if you haven’t watched Gameday, the tennis racket stuff was pretty hysterical)…. But deep down he (Nick Saban) has to know that Tua gives him a better chance…”

Basically, Herbstreit is saying that Tua’s cognitive processing speed gives him the edge.

According to Cognfit.com cognitive processing speed can be explained as:

Processing speed is one of the main elements of the cognitive process, which is why it is one of the most important skills in learning, academic performance, intellectual development, reasoning, and experience.

Processing speed is a cognitive ability that could be defined as the time it takes a person to do a mental task. It is related to the speed in which a person can understand and react to the information they receive, whether it be visual (letters and numbers), auditory (language), or movement. In other words, processing speed is the time between receiving and responding to a stimulus.

Processing speed implies a greater ability to easily do simple or previously-learned tasks. This refers to the ability to automatically process information, which means processing information quickly and without doing it consciously. The higher the processing speed, the more efficient you are able to think and learn.

Processing speed is the time that lapses from when you receive information until you understand it and start to respond.

Tua started the game.  You can simply watch the highlight clip (especially the first touchdown pass) of Alabama’s 51-14 victory over Louisville, and you will see what superior cognitive processing speed looks like.  Tua processes a variety of inputs/information rapidly and “without doing it consciously” to make the best decisions about where to put the ball.

Leadership in the business world isn’t much different than quarterback leadership on the football field.  There are a variety of inputs coming at leaders quickly that need to be distilled down rapidly in order to make the right decisions- to put the ball in the right place.

This ability can be measured.  It is measured in a variety of ways in kids in educational settings.  And there are also tools that measure it for selection in the business world.

Here’s a short test from psychology today: Mental speed test
You can also check out: Pyrometrics

Work samples can also be a good way to throw a lot of information at a candidate at one time and see how quickly and how well they come up with a solution.  Make sure it includes information in work samples that is irrelevant.  Can the person discern what is and isn’t important and get work done in a quality manner.

In addition, there is a potential relationship between cognitive processing speed and time management skills, so this might be another assessment avenue to consider.  Include in your work sample the requirement to prioritize a variety of tasks/decisions and then ask the candidate to explain their logic of prioritization.

And for those of you that could care less about SEC football, maybe Michigan lost because of a lack of cognitive processing speed on the part of their coach.  Check out the first part of Jim Harbaugh’s interview on GameDay.  A paper baggy? What the heck???

Next time you go to hire a leader take cognitive processing speed seriously.  The presence of it in your leaders may help you win a national championship.  The absence of it may cost you the game against Notre Dame.

Mary Ila Ward

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