Hiring any exceptional people for leadership roles is a challenge. Why, becasue you have to know exactly what you are looking for. 'Exceptional' means different things to different people. What constitutes being exceptional in your company?
1. Determine exactly what the role is, what the individual must know and have demonstrated and what level of authority they will have.
2. Be willing to meet and interview people with more knowledge and experience than you have. This can be scary for owners who consider their businesses their babies. None the less, exceptional leaders frequently possess greater skills than the people doing the hiring so get comfortable with it.
3. Be very selective about where you go to source candidates. Sources that have not proven to be great places for great people should be avoided. You will either need to pay for this part or spend lots of time yourself doing the looking.
4. Have your interview process well thought out. Don't worry about how long it takes to get great candidates through the process. As long as each step has a reason, great candidates will recognize that being thorough is to their benefit.
5. Have others interview the candidates you are interested in. Other prospectives from well chosen parties can be invaluable for seeing things you might have overlooked.
6. Have the candidate finalist prepare a recommendation or advisory paper of some kind. Give them some details about a situation they might have to deal with and have them give you their approach to resolving it. This will give you an invaluable look at how they think, process information and make decisions.
Lastly, check them out thoroughly. Depending on the level of leader you are considering, an independent background check might be in order. You can also search websites like LinkedIn for others who might have worked at their company during the time they did.