Identifying the key attributes of success is a hot topic at present. Here I’ve taken a look at some contemporary, and not so contemporary, well-known, successful thought leaders and their views on the most important attributes of great performers.

Almost all say having the skills to do a job is the starting point, not the finishing point, when it comes to hiring people. Potentially a lot of line managers in Australia are intuitively aware of this but don’t know how to articulate other desired attributes, much less determine if a potential candidate has those qualities. These 11 leaders provide food for thought regarding those potential ‘other’ qualities.

A good person to start with is Daniel Goleman, the architect of our modern thinking around Emotional Intelligence (EI) and its impact on the workplace. Goleman describes EI as involving:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skill

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have spent decades researching leadership and say the behaviours to look for are:

  • Modelling the way
  • Inspiring vision
  • Enabling others
  • Challenging the process
  • Encouraging the heart

They cite honesty as one of the most important personal qualities that defines moral character and delivers integrity, truthfulness, legitimacy and credibility. They say it is vital in building the trust on which their five criteria above depend.

Two qualities that stand out for Verne Harnish, chair of the renowned Birthing of Giants entrepreneurship leadership program at MIT for 15 years, and author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, are:

  • An insatiable desire to learn
  • An unquenchable penchant for action

After 30 years of teaching companies how to select ‘A-grade players’, Brad Smart, developer of the American Topgrading process, indicated there were two things those top performers all had in common:

  • They were all readers
  • They all wanted to improve themselves

Admittedly, you can’t use these in your selection criteria. However, if you are narrowing the field on a potential list of A players, and some don’t have these qualities, it might be worth digger deeper.

Now, from the research of academics and teachers, to well-known entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Richard Branson emphasises the fit with the company culture. To me this is a great place to start. I have spent the last 20 years within Carroll Consulting focusing on culture-fit recruitment. Branson also says you are onto a winning person if you can find people who are:

  • Fun
  • Friendly
  • Caring
  • Love helping others.

Similar to reading and self-development, these do not necessarily guarantee a winning hire. I think we have all worked with people who are fun and friendly but don’t deliver! Nevertheless, as Branson concludes, ‘don’t be afraid to hire mavericks’!

Warren Buffett, the renowned American investment guru, has three traits he looks for:

  • Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Energy

Famously, he says if you can’t find the first, the other two will kill you.

Jack Welch came to a similar conclusion, that before you assess other qualities, you need to ensure someone has integrity. He then has his own ‘4 Es and P’ criteria of:

  • Energy (positive)
  • Engaging others
  • Edge
  • Execution
  • Passion

Mark Zuckerberg, while offering far fewer years in the market, has been an unquestioned success and offers one criteria:

  • If I wouldn’t feel happy working for the person then I don’t want them as part of my team.

Closer to home, the recently retired CEO of Telstra, David Thodey, talked about his main criteria of culture fit. This means the values used to define the business are aligned and ‘alive and lived within’ the candidate you want to hire. It sounds simple enough, but does require some work to translate company values into behaviours and then ensure a repeating pattern of those behaviours in a candidate’s background.

In researching for this blog, I came across a lot of talk about asking potential candidates what they would do in certain situations to determine their fit. My caution is, it is not about what people say they can do, but rather what people will do regularly that defines their behaviours, attributes and the character you want to hire.

Happy recruiting.