When you consider the uniqueness of roles, organisational cultures and individuals, the adage that we are all one of a kind rings true. However, in our work, having interviewed thousands of people and placed hundreds in roles, there is no question that there are some ‘universal’ traits that make for star talent.

My top six traits

Here are my top six:

  • 1-3 – I love sharing with clients a comment that Warren Buffett made famous – that energy, innovation and integrity are essential qualities to look for in anyone you hire…and if they don’t have integrity, the first two will kill you.
  • 4 – one that has always held true in those I’ve interacted with is the notion that leaders are readers. Someone who proactively seeks to develop their skills – often by reading and learning from others – demonstrate their commitment to continual development. I also find they bring more diverse, fresh thinking to their work because they are introducing the wisdom of many to what they do.
  • 5 – when you sit back and look at success traits, those with a goal orientation – who set goals, consistently work toward them and show that desire to improve – add immense value to their organisations.
  • 6 – in being goal oriented, it’s essential they aren’t ‘me’ oriented or they will burn through your team. That’s why my number six is the ability to be collaborative and interact well with others. That doesn’t mean death by committee, and it doesn’t mean slow decision-making. Collaboration, at its heart, is ensuring the right minds and the right hearts have been taken on the journey. Wisdom knows when to switch it on.

Time and again, I’ve found these to be a winning combination, whether they are demonstrated in a 25-year-old sales manager who is aspiring to become a sales director, or a 45-year-old CFO wanting to become a CEO.

An organisation’s duty of care

For someone to shine, an organisation simply cannot afford to assume all responsibility on that star talent. I’ve seen great people flounder in an environment that failed to live up to its side of the contract. Star talent still need a positive leadership environment that’s empowering, trusting and supportive. They still need a manager who is interested in their people growing and developing – even if it takes them beyond that manager’s own skill level. The other adage that remains true (too much given the wealth of commentary about it), is that people leave managers, not jobs. Negative managers who are never satisfied and only in it for their own gain, discourage people from taking ownership and stretching themselves. There is absolutely an environmental impact to whether star talent will thrive in your organisation.

From another perspective, I’ve found that almost every outstanding person I’ve engaged with has a champion from their past. That champion saw something in them, showed great confidence in them and encouraged them to step up. That is part of what separates leaders from managers. Sometimes it takes a leader to call out the latent talent in someone…to empower, inspire and be the confident voice in their life. You may have a star talent yet to be ‘discovered’ already in your organisation. The question is, are your leaders attuned to their people?

With these universal traits in mind, there is a moment where the uniqueness of role, culture and person comes to the fore again. Even with those universal traits, no one has them in the same measure, and no organisation offers the same environment. That’s why the purpose of recruitment isn’t to find generic star talent. In fact, we actively and strongly discourage our clients from engaging a person who is outstanding but is a long way from their culture. We know from extensive experience that if an organisation doesn’t have the environment to encourage, support and develop talent, or managers trained in cultivating and growing people, the match won’t work.

Star talent is exciting to find, and then it comes down to having a real role, matched to a clear culture, connected to the right person.

Thanks for reading – happy recruiting.

Ian Hamilton

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash