Know Thy Ingredients

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You are hiring for a critical leadership position. Adversity is always on the horizon for your organization, so filling vacancies quickly is “mission critical.” The position you need to fill has a list of delineated duties associated with it, and a set of metrics by which success is judged. If a leadership team member who performs well and contributes to the success of the organization can be thought of metaphorically as cake, well then the answer is obvious, isn’t it? — You want to find your next cake, and …


But if you’re not crystal clear on understanding what makes a cake a cake beyond appearance alone, you are susceptible to getting duped by a forgery. (There is, in fact, an entire industry built around the manufacture of ultra-realistic fake cakes and such.) If all you know about cake is the surface recognition of shape, size, and icing, choosing to buy the “gorgeous display cake in the window” could send you home with a hatbox encased in fondant and buttercream. On the other hand, if you know what it takes to make a cake, and are willing to invest the time in baking it, you’ll find eggs, milk, flour, and sugar to be a lot easier to get.


The same is true when trying to find new talented people. Sure, you can stick to the traditional shortcut list of icing-like requirements: education credentials, relevant experience, and past successes. “Everybody knows” that only Ivy-League MBA’s can lead modern businesses, right? (Evidently, based on media-coverage of last night’s official election season kickoff debate, one of the chief requirements for being president is looking good on tv and delivering zingers.)

But, if you have a goal higher than simply filling a spot fast and checking the CYA boxes should it not work out, there is a better way. To increase the odds of finding great leadership talent and minimizing the odds of making a bad hire, understand the real ingredients of success. Here’s a partial list, in no particular order:

  • integrity
  • resilience
  • tenacity
  • curiosity
  • self-awareness
  • humility
  • imagination
  • empathy
  • intellectual agility
  • appetite to learn

If you truly know what you’re looking for, you are then able to find some of the best ingredients in the world in surprising, unexpected places. Do this, and you and your organization will get an added bonus as well — a fresh injection of a different perspective.

Bon appetit!

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