Common Leadership Hiring Mistake #1

I have had the privilege of being a part of several hiring processes of new leaders for teams and businesses. Through those processes I have noticed some common misconceptions many of the people involved in these processes have. Today I am going to focus on one of the errors that usually leads to an unsatisfactory outcome.

There is a common and adored practice of hiring someone who currently has a high-level position at a company or team that is and has been very successful for some time. While there have been many examples in business and sports where this has worked out wonderfully, these instances overshadow the number of failures this strategy has produced.

Based on my experience, the first and foremost thing when hiring a new leader is the person themselves. What characteristics they possess, and how they interact with others, will ultimately trump any knowledge advantage they possess. Many hiring practices I have been involved with put an undue amount of weight on the person’s knowledge and their success in the system they are currently involved in.

I find this to be a huge mistake for a number of reasons. Being a part of a successful organization is a lot different than building a successful organization. Knowing how to do your job within an organization is a much different job than running an organization. Many hiring processes make assumptions that if you are the number two person in the organization, you can do the same thing the top person there does if they bring you on.

Another problem is failing to look at the characteristics of the number one person when evaluating the number two person. I’m going to speak in generalities here to make the following point, as I do not personally know anyone in the following example.

Without knowing anything about the following people other than which company or team they are the number two person at, who would you hire? The number two person at Tesla or the number two person at 3M? With that limited knowledge, the decision for me would be easy, the person from 3M.

You may be asking why, and the answer is simple, Elon Musk is the face of Tesla and has an overwhelming presence. What do you think the odds are that the number two person there shares those traits? I doubt many people reading this know who the head of 3M is (I don’t). The fact that I don’t know who the top person there is makes it much more likely that the number two person there may possess the same skills that lead 3M to be successful as the number one person. I certainly like my odds better with them.

Individuals lead organizations, and while knowledge and experience are important factors to consider, the overvaluing of those factors often leads to disappointment. I have found that when you put a greater weight on the individual and their soft-skills, you generally increase your odds of reaching a good outcome.


You can follow Sam on Twitter @SuperTaoInc


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