Hiring a Leader: The DNA of Success

The old adage says that people are a firm’s greatest asset, but as business leaders, we know that people are not a firm’s greatest asset, the right people are. Sometimes it feels like strong leadership recruitment is as much luck as it is skill. We have all had that one star performer that knocks it out of the park every week, every quarter, every year. And we wish we could replicate him or her across the organization.

On the other hand, many of us have had the experience of interviewing what seemed to be a dynamic individual, with the stellar resume and credentials. The one that gave all the right answers in the interview but failed miserably on the job. Where did we go wrong? How could we have been so far off, based on his or her skills and background?

In order to build the best leadership recruiting and hiring practices, we should begin with what we all know intuitively. Experience and track record are the strongest predictors of future success. Strong leaders must have the requisite skills to deliver; but equally, they need to be able to point to achieved results.
Leaders who love what they do, tend to be better at doing it. Positive energy and success go hand in hand. We see these individuals bring high energy to the workplace on a consistent basis. They have a zest for life. And it’s contagious. They readily inspire the people around them. They have passion.

Happiness is foundational to performance. Successful leaders are happier more of the time and they bring a can-do, results-oriented focus to the job. They aspire to greater achievements professionally. They are driven by a very clear idea about what success looks like in both the short and long term – not just for themselves but for their colleagues and businesses. And they know that any future success starts today. They have purpose.

Once a strong candidate has been identified, based on the variables above, we need to ask ourselves if they are a fit with our organization. Is there a shared purpose between the company’s vision and the candidate’s aspirations? Is there a cultural fit between current leadership and this potential hire? Who will this person report into or who reports into this person? We may be doing a great job of getting people to join, but are we considering all the variables that will make them stay?

So here’s the checklist:

1. Requisite skills and experience
2. Concrete achievements
3. Energy / Passion
4. Results-driven
5. Shared Purpose
6. Cultural Fit

Most firms focus on the first two above and hope for the best on the others. This can be a costly mistake, as the impact of an incorrect hire at the executive level can mean the difference between below average and stellar returns.

Taking the time to understand the core behavioral strengths of an executive hire will offer valuable insight into what motivates them, what areas they are likely to be passionate about, and where in the organization they will add most value.

A leading global social media company in Menlo Park, CA, uses a successful technique where they, in a way, reverse the hiring process. They start with hiring smart, ambitious people across a range of disciplines. Then, on the job, they uncover who the new hire really is by evaluating their behavioral strengths. Using these insights, they design the job specification around those strengths and create a role that is tailored to tap into them. It’s almost like hiring the job for the person instead of the person for the job.

When it comes to recruitment, we need to think differently so we can see the whole person. Reverse approaches. Come at it from a new angle. Study behavior, attitudes, motivations, perspectives, passions, relationships…and then skills and expertise.

The business landscape changes quickly; however, one thing remains true – strong, motivated leaders who love the work they do will always rise to the top and bring the company with them. Take the time to really understand what your company executive leadership needs are. Then take a methodical approach to the executive search process. Your bottom line will be glad that you did.

About Carn International

Carn International is a global executive and professional search firm providing dynamic and seasoned leadership talent to clients. For over 25 years, our consultants have collaborated with companies and executives across a range of specialties and industries, fostering mutually prosperous relationships. Ken Lee, Carn International CEO and author of this article, can be reached at ken.lee@carninternational.com.