Recruiting, Talent

5 Characteristics of Growth-Focused Leadership Candidates

If you want to stay competitive in an increasingly competitive market, McKinsey found that “growth trumps all.” According to its research:


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  • Growth yields greater returns.
  • Growth predicts long-term success.
  • Growth matters more than margin or cost structure.

This means it needs to be a focus as you expand your team. To allow for continual growth companywide, you need to hire leadership candidates who have a growth mind-set, allowing them to motivate their team to act, take risks, and evolve with the company.

To find people who can bring this mind-set to your organization, look for these five traits as you interview candidates.

1. Ability to Learn, Change, and Adapt

Few industries are static in this modern world. Everyone is constantly fluctuating to keep up with the pace of consumer demands. In fact, in the last 3 years, the average company went through 5 changes, and 73% accept change as necessary for acceleration, according to Harvard Business Review.

This is why the right leadership candidates need to be teachable and adaptable while being unafraid to recalibrate when former systems or processes no longer work. Harvard Business Review identifies the characteristics of leaders who embrace change:

  • Clear and definitive purpose
  • Ability to see the opportunities
  • Willingness to confront blind spots and errors
  • Calculated drive to experiment
  • Interest in cross-boundary collaboration

2. Vision to Align and Connect the Team

Workplace disconnect is the enemy of forward motion. “Being a high-growth company comes with a relatively standard set of obstacles that all organizations face. A major obstacle that we see time and time again is departmental silos form that hinder alignment, communication, and collaboration,” suggest experts at CloudKettle, a SalesForce brand.

Growth-focused leadership candidates are focused on breaking down silos and fostering inclusion and collaboration.

Uncovering details about candidates’ working styles and how they interact with teams companywide will shed light on whether they’re able to bring a collaborative and open mind-set to the role. Focus on questions related to how they would break down silos in your organization to better understand their mind-set and process.

3. Desire to Amplify Diverse Perspectives

Businesses that value ethnic and gender diversity on their teams financially outperform the national median by a likelihood of 33%, based on a 2017 report from McKinsey & Company. However, the data continue, despite this link between fiscal growth and diversity, both women and racial minorities are still underrepresented in many organizations.

When companies recruit leaders who not only bring in diverse talent but also listen to their unique perspectives and encourage them to harness their strengths, they gain an edge over the competition.

Having an open and honest conversation about diversity in the workplace is an important step to take when looking for growth-focused leadership candidates.

4. Passion for the Work and Industry

The leaders you’re looking for aren’t just signing up for a day job. They should be looking to make a difference in their role, which means they’re passionate about what they do and what they can bring to your organization.

Michael Stahl, CMO of HealthMarkets, has facilitated major overhauls in the marketing department he leads, including a full rebrand after the Affordable Health Care Act was passed. He is one of these people. He explains:

“One of the greatest aspects of my job is that my team always work on exciting projects. Just the other day, I spoke with a member of my data science team about building a more dynamic model that uses machine learning to acquire business leads, and the notion that we can be part of those initial conversations all the way through implementation is always exciting.”

Stahl is passionate about what he does and what his team can bring to the organization. To find candidates who feel the same about your industry and company, Anisha Vinjamuri, CEO and Founder of InnovationsIQ, tells Monster, “A best practice is to make a note of the areas of a conversation when the interviewee shows increased enthusiasm.”

5. Interest in Employee Growth over Bottom Line

Turning a profit is an undeniably important business goal, but with a team that can play to its strengths, you’ll be hard pressed to see the profit. What’s more, only 21% of employees told Gallup that they have performance management that allows them to do outstanding work. If you want to grow, employees need to be as empowered as leaders to do their best work.

Growth-focused leaders know that they’re only as strong as their employees, and looking for this mind-set during interviews will help you find the right candidates. Discuss their strategies for employee engagement and empowerment to get a sense of where they fall in this important realm of leadership.

Find Growth-Focused Leadership Candidates

Not all leaders are able to lead growth within an organization, so you have to dig a little deeper and go into each interview knowing what characteristics to look for. Use these ideas as a starting point, and then customize your questions to reflect your unique needs to find the best leaders for your growing business.

Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels is the Founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Business Insider, Glassdoor,, and more. Follow her on Twitter, @JThiefels, and connect on LinkedIn.