What Leaders Want:Let’s paint the picture … You have a great story, huge market opportunity, lots of funding — and you need an experienced exec to navigate you through the challenges of growth. Your ideal candidate has done this before, and comes with the pedigree of successful big name wins on their resume. It is super tempting to line up the list of what needs to get done, then look for the resume that includes all of these as accomplishments. This feels like a great way to manage risk and ensure a great outcome. So you find that rare person, pitch your job and, despite being the hottest company, she says “No thanks”. But why? When we ask accomplished tech leaders why they would want to leave their job, the typical response is “I’m no longer challenged. My learning has plateaued and I want to do what I love, but also try something new.” No wonder that your offer to repeat the past falls flat. The best, most successful leaders in tech are looking for a new mountain to climb. These leaders love to learn, they want to build on their successes and stay on the edge of their comfort zone. They are craving the stretch. And in fact, if you find someone who is happy to repeat the past, beware! A veteran who simply brings an old playbook is a liability in a business that needs innovation and create new ways to solve problems. A highly capable rookie will outperform that veteran every time.
So What Do You Look For?Here’s my advice: Think through every new role you’re looking to fill. Then differentiate between the absolutely critical experience and the aspects of the job that the right person can learn and stretch into. Don’t let the talent shortage bring you down. Define where and why you need a veteran. Find out how your ideal candidates want to grow and what challenges they crave. Then define the role in a way that leverages experience and offers stretch. Then support that learning with the safety and space to try new things, ask questions and make mistakes. Here are 4 traits to look for in a leader who may lack experience but can own the stretch:
- A history of constant learning and embracing new challenges
- A balance of confidence and humility