The Perfect Candidate by Jim Hansen


Executives in leadership positions typically have high standards for themselves and others. As organizations mature, the expected qualifications of the leadership team also increases. In hiring decisions, potential executives and managers are expected to have the right combination of experience, ability and education to excel at the particular role. Someone selected for a leadership role will also be evaluated and judged by both subordinates and peers. Everyone has a vested interest in making the best hire and the bar is set very high for potential candidates.

As executive recruiters, we are tasked with identifying and presenting potential candidates who have all the attributes that have been identified as important. We are seeking someone who is a proven performer and has been successful throughout their career. Previous success is typically the best indicator of future performance. But what about people who have experienced a setback or even a failure at some point in their career? Effective leaders often express that managers are allowed to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. In most cases, this rule does not apply when considering candidates for employment. Someone who has a short tenure with a recent job or who may have worked for an unsuccessful organization is often eliminated from consideration. A candidate who went through a difficult time and experienced a foreclosure or a charge-off is often rejected. I think this can be a mistake. Is there a perfect candidate?

Obviously as humans we all make mistakes. And most of us learn valuable lessons from those mistakes. The experience typically makes us smarter and improves our ability to avoid similar setbacks in the future. If a chief lending officer has never made a bad loan or chief financial officer a bad investment, they may be ill-prepared when challenges arise.

Certainly a pattern of missteps would be a cause for concern. But I would suggest having a conversation with a candidate who…

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Leader or Leech? 5 Ways to Tell. by Matt Monge

Some “leaders” are just flat-out leeches. Leech leaders, if you will. Kind of a gross mental picture, to be sure; but given that this type of leader can suck the very lifeblood out of an organization, leech leader seems apropos. You can tell a lot about leaders by how they treat an organization. Is the organization there for their benefit? Or are the leaders there to serve the organization? There’s a huge difference, and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference if you look hard enough. Here are five ways to pick out a leech who’s masquerading as a leader.


1. Leech leaders use their organizations simply as vehicles to attract the spotlight for themselves. Is the organization just a platform for the leader to trumpet his/her accomplishments? (Quick FYI: I wrote the post I just linked to in the last sentence two years ago…well before somebody’s foray into politics.) It’ll be easy to tell, because these leaders are often fairly obvious in their attempts to do what it takes to be in the spotlight. Believe it or not, these leaders may even say out loud that they want the accolades from others.

2. Leech leaders fight for their own salary increases and perks harder than they do for anyone else’s (if they fight for anyone else’s at all). Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying there’s not a place for folks to make a case for why they deserve a salary increase. I’m not saying that at all. But I do think it’s pretty telling if the only person that a leader goes to bat for as it relates to a salary increase is the leader him/herself. Leeches spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over their salary, complain about their salary to anyone who will listen, and are rarely not trying to figure out a way to get more money out of their organization. Do they extend that same effort to their teammates? Do they go to great lengths to see other hard-working colleagues rewarded in similar ways? No.

3. Leech leaders receive more of their praise from people *outside* the team or organization than the people who actually have to work for them. Now think about this. What does it tell us if a hypothetical leader gets accolades, but most, if not all, of those accolades come from folks *outside* the organization? Wouldn’t it be a better sign if people inside the organization — and especially that leader’s team — were the ones raving about that leader’s leadership? If that’s not the case — if the only recognition that a leader gets is coming from outside the organization — might that not hint at the possibility that the only folks who think the leader is good are the ones who don’t actually experience his/her leadership? Hmmm…

4. When listening to leech leaders talk, they often talk about what more the organization should be doing for them in the way of perks, higher pay, travel, etc. Rarely, if ever, do you hear them commenting on or asking others how they can better learn, grow, and serve the organization and its employees. This is a clear indicator of an immature, selfish, narcissistic mindset. Contrast that with examples of great leadership, where you often see leaders more concerned with embracing humility and serving others. I think we both know which one is ultimately going to be more successful.

5. Leech leaders are more concerned with controlling their team than serving them.

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A Tribute to My Mother by Jim Johnson

My mother passed away last Wednesday.  Her funeral was today. I had asked each of my siblings  (4 brothers and 1 sister) to write out a tribute to our mother. Here is mine.  My mother was an incredible woman.


What Mom meant to me cannot be adequately captured in a paragraph or two.  My mom was a loving, fiercely loyal, and proud parent. She was so proud to share with others what her kids had accomplished.  And she was quick to stand up for us kids if anyone suggested any negativity about us.

Mom’s gift of hospitality was so evident.  We had so many people in our home from missionaries, acquaintances from work/school, distant relatives, and even an ambassador from Nigeria.  She treated everyone the same – they were loved, respected, and welcomed.  And they were expected to eat…a lot. 

Mom was an incredible cook.  She mastered everything she attempted.  And what was left over later became a wonderful dish she called “must-goes” – everything in the frig must go.  She was a patient teacher in the kitchen.  And she was loved it when her kids cooked for her.  

Mom was a wise woman.  During some of my darkest days, she was there listening and sharing things I needed to hear.  One day during a particularly good pity party I was throwing for myself, Mom said, “You know God has brought you ‘sandpaper friends” into your life right now.”  “Sandpaper friends?” I asked.  “Yes, God has brought these people into your life to knock off the rough edges in you.”  I didn’t really care to hear those words at the time, but she was spot on. 

And most of all, Mom let me and my siblings just be ourselves.  6 different kids.  All unique.  And Mom loved us with all of our talents, weirdness, humor, gifts, and oddities. I often felt I was treated like I imagined an only child was treated.  But then I grew to know that Mom loved each of us like that.  Unique, precious, specific love. 

Mom enthusiastically loved life.  She was not an adventurer.  No, the life she loved always involved others – Dad, her kids, her grandchildren, her great grandkids and you friends who are here today.  We all were her life.  

And she simply made all of our lives so much better because she was here.  I have a New Testament from Mom’s father, Rev. Joe Klopfenstein.  In it, I found these words written in Grandpa’s hand:  “spend your life for something that will outlast it.”  Look around this room today. We all are part of our mom’s investment. 

Thank you, Mom, for what you poured into our lives.


5 Leadership Clichés to Ditch by Cy Wakeman


Have you ever noticed that many of the leadership clichés we live by are not living up to their reputation? Leaders flippantly throw around sound bites of so-called “wisdom” picked up from conferences or leadership books and use them without questioning whether or not they are true or even useful. Operating within these limiting beliefs keeps leaders and their teams from delivering results and achieving success in these challenging times.

So as a lover of reality, I began the campaign to eradicate the following clichés and limiting beliefs that we in leadership have come to believe and, worse yet, actually use:

Limiting Belief #1: Everyone’s opinion should count.

Human resources departments have always tried to make employees feel as if their opinions counted.  After all, this is America, and democracy is a good thing, right? Well, not at work—especially if you are seeking results. Your workplace is not a democracy. Employees who want to be consulted on each and every decision create chaos in the organization.

Can you imagine what the morning commute would be like if each person took the time to discuss their opinions of whether or not stop signs were needed? Instead, they just stop, not feeling at all offended that they were not consulted and then drive on. We need the same behavior in the workplace so that we can stop hindering progress and move on to results.

Limiting Belief #2: There is no “I” in “team.”

I often hear leaders reminding their teams, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” And the way I see it, this is the exact problem with teams. With no “I” in “team,” leaders are ensuring that no one is taking accountability for their part in creating the current results and are, therefore, not in a position to create anything more successful in the future.

There may not be an “I” in the word “team,” but there certainly is an “I” in “improvement” and “innovation.” Reality-based leaders spend time focusing the energy of the team on either achieving desired results in spite of challenges or learning what to adapt to next so that the desired results can be achieved. Learning and results will only come when each team member is able to honestly assess what they contribute, both positive and negative, without considering the circumstances. Only by acknowledging this, can they know what needs to change in the future.

Limiting Belief #3: There is no such thing as a stupid question.

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