We all know that a business is only as successful as the people running it. Employees are every company’s most valuable asset, and every employer has their own unique list of must-haves and nice-to-haves when hiring. Some are universal (detail orientation, good communication skills, ability to take direction), while others are specific to the role or industry.
However, there are a few qualities that straddle two lines, existing between boundary pushing and boundary-breaking. The success of companies like Apple, Google and Amazon have introduced the public to a new breed of maverick leaders whose unique qualities have made their companies more successful than any in history. Yet these same qualities would most likely get the average employee fired within their first few weeks if they were even hired at all. Perhaps some personality traits are only admired when displayed by business owners. Let’s look at a few.
“Disruptor” has become the catchphrase of the millennium. A label once used to describe school-aged troublemakers is now used to describe leaders of multi-billion-dollar companies. To be successful, one must think of how to do something better than his or her competitors. But to truly disrupt an industry, one must figure out how to do it in a way that has never been done before and will change the industry forever.
Unfortunately, this is contrary to what most employers truly want from their employees. Businesses are typically successful because they follow a formula that has worked for them in the past. While they may tweak the formula, there’s a better chance that drastic changes will lead to bankruptcy than will lead to industry-disrupting success. For this reason, unless the company is already facing bankruptcy, most employers would rather hire workers who will take direction and continue doing things according to plan than allowing a newbie with radical ideas to gamble with the company’s future.
Of course, every good employer is open to new ideas and suggestions, but their degree of openness and risk aversion determines their stopping point between successful business and industry disruptor. As for the true disruptors, most of them learn early on that they’re better off starting and leading their own company than working for and trying to change an already-established one.
Creativity is something every employer looks for in prospective employees, and it comes in many forms. Without it, new ideas wouldn’t form and progress wouldn’t be made. However, true creatives don’t always limit creativity to their thoughts but choose to express themselves externally through fashion, hairstyles, tattoos or piercings. While most employers encourage creative thinking, many of them shy away from hiring individuals who don’t display what they would consider a “professional appearance,” thus limiting their pool of creative candidates.
Certainly just because someone doesn’t look or dress creatively doesn’t mean they can’t think creatively. Yet the opposite also holds true in that those with a creative appearance can contribute to a company’s mission just as well as someone in business attire. While the degree of acceptable outward creativity is often dictated by the industry, it stands to reason that companies whose leaders think the most creatively tend to have the most relaxed dress codes.
The Outside-the-Box Thinker
Ask any employer what they look for in a new hire and they will most likely mention “culture fit” somewhere on their priority list. While their intent is to hire employees who share the company’s values and work well with their coworkers, the result can often be a homogeneous group of people who come from similar backgrounds, act similar, think similar, and ultimately end up at the same company.
Once hired, employers typically encourage team members to “think outside the box” in meetings or when working together on projects in order to explore innovative ideas or practices. But if those thoughts had strayed too far outside the box during the application or interview process, chances are the employee would never have received an offer. While nearly all employers prioritize culture fit in hiring, few prioritize culture add, seeking out those who bring a true diversity of thought to the company.
There are many things that must align for a company to be successful. Aside from offering the right product or service at the right time to the right customer base, the right leaders and employees must possess the right qualities and skill sets. Even if those qualities are held by the wrong individuals, the formula may not be successful, as each actor has a unique part to play.
Though certain unique qualities and skills are necessary for every company’s success, company leaders may well be the only ones fit to possess them, as other employees with similar skills may be considered cocky, difficult to work with, or simply not a good fit. It’s then up to leaders to determine how many of these qualities they can provide, how many they’ll seek from employees, and how they’ll handle the occasional personality quirks of employees who possess them.