Scaling with Self-Awareness and Industry Expertise
As we strive to add high-impact individuals to our leadership layers — those amazing humans who are better than us in our respective fields or have the ability to be — I’m finding two dimensions have helped maintain a high bar. Specifically with Sr. Manager and above leadership roles.

The first is a more obvious one: When hiring, you must require industry expertise. Leadership roles in scaling organizations are not learn-on-the-job roles. For the teams I support, velocity is one of the key behaviors we need to ensure remains healthy. Onboarding leaders who can quickly grok the customer challenges and lead the team with decisiveness will prove more valuable than the outside-in perspective that can help with innovation tracks. The insight here is to staff for new ideas and outside-the-box thinking within your IC and Sr. IC roles (Staff, Principal, M1-levels) and support them with leaders who can block and tackle based on their years of experience in the space.

The second dimension might not be so clear at first. Self-awareness in leaders is a sign of a thoughtful and objective human. It also signals that one has led or worked in a high-performing organization where feedback was treated as a gift. Here’s why: Feedback helps us match our internal view of ourselves with that of the people around us. And people on great teams can provide useful feedback to others and demand the same. On high-performing teams, peers feel accountable for each other's success and are generous with their guidance and reactions every step of the way. Staffing your team with self-aware leaders, who will speak the truth, even when it’s hard, will set the stage for this kind of accountability.

So how do you know you’re adding this magic? Start by adding questions in your interview process that get to this. Here are a few that I’ve used as conversation starters:

"What was some upward feedback you received from your direct reports last cycle, and what are you doing about it?”
"What are your growth opportunities as a leader?"
"What goals have you set for yourself, and why are they important to the team you support?"

Back to Top