Last updated on May 1st, 2016 at 04:26 am
Different roles require different skills and attributes. But the best people we hire at WPP tend to have some very important characteristics in common. Here’s my top seven:
1. An ambidextrous brain
We live in a world increasingly dominated by data but if all you can do is read a spreadsheet you won’t reach the highest level. Success in business means being able – as Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management puts it – to appreciate qualities, not just quantities.
The intangibles of judgment, creativity, intuition and imagination are essential for great leaders, because they are the things that make innovation happen. They’re just as important as logic, financial literacy and an eye for detail. This applies in pretty much any industry, from advertising and marketing services to software development and engineering.
2. The ability to argue
It’s annoying when people disagree with you, but an argument is usually a more constructive exchange than a conversation in which everyone wholeheartedly agrees with each other.
If a leader is surrounded by yes people they learn nothing. Good people know how to stand their ground and make their case – even (especially) when others don’t want to hear what they’re saying.
3. International outlook
It’s a cliché but sound advice all the same: when people ask me how best to advance their career I tell them to learn Mandarin and Portuguese.
Speaking the languages of the great rising powers like China and Brazil will give you huge competitive advantage in an ever more globalised workplace, but it’s not enough by itself. More important than the skill itself is outlook.
Top candidates are eternally inquisitive, outward-looking and international in perspective. In a world where ideas cross the globe in seconds, you can’t afford to be parochial.
4. Early adoption
The same curiosity that leads them to look beyond national borders makes the best people obsessive about the new. High achievers are generally magpies, forever drawn by the glint of new technologies, new thinking and new trends.
This doesn’t mean they abandon or undervalue the old, but it does mean they are never wholly satisfied with the status quo, they never stop learning and they never stop driving their businesses forward.
5. Fast decision-making
I used to say, perhaps unwisely, that a bad decision on Monday is better than a good decision on Friday. With the benefit of hindsight I might have modified that to “an imperfect decision on Monday is better than the 100% perfect decision on Friday”. Either way, you get the point.
Strategy is critical, but without implementation it’s nothing. While you strategise and over-intellectualise, others are getting on with things and building a lead.
6. No butterflies
This is not a reference to nerves, which afflict us all from time to time, but to those who flit from one job opportunity to another without ever truly committing to an organisation or goal. However bright their wings and however successful they might appear, butterflies rarely make a lasting mark.
An old-fashioned view, perhaps – one I inherited from my Dad, who advised me to find something I enjoy, stick to it, build a reputation in that field and then, if I wanted to, strike out by myself. Which is what I did.
7. The will to win
Last but definitely not least, I look for people who really care about winning and losing. I take it personally when we lose a piece of business, or someone leaves the company. After nearly 30 years in the job, losing still gets to me.
I often plagiarise Bill Shankly, the legendary manager of Liverpool Football Club, who famously said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death; I can assure them it is much more serious than that.” That’s how I feel about WPP.
Ref : weforum