We’ve already discussed the theory here.
Today, we’ll discuss the Career Personality “linear”: a person that strategically changes their job every 5-10 years aiming at (top) management positions from early on.
Lions know from early on – probably when interning at their first international corporation – that they want to climb the corporate ladder. They have a goal that they pursue determinedly. They obtain additional qualifications strategically. They pursue MBA studies. They want more. They better themselves.
And again, it might seem tempting to pigeon-hole all of them. I’d like to share types I have observed so far:
– inflated super-mega-ego: I’m the best there is. Kiss the floor I am walking on.
– drama queen: similar to the above, but with even more emotions.
– overly ambitious: burns bridges along the way. The end justifies the means.
– truly royal lions: elegantly and competently to the top.
We have asked Joanna Arent, Branch Manager, at Devonshire:
Would you mind sharing your experience with the… let’s call them… “less royal” lions? How do they behave towards you or your client? Have I failed to mentioned other lion-types? Do lions do something that might disqualify them from the recruitment process?
Joanna: I contact potential candidates that are not actively looking for a new employer. And from all the types that have been mentioned, lions are the most grateful and graceful ones. Lions are true partners to talk to about potential opportunities on the market irrespectively of their “degree of lion-hood”.
Their innate desire to climb the corporate ladder doesn’t allow them to ignore or disregard headhunters. They even feel appreciated as I/we show proper interest in them. However, all that does not mean they take rash or quick career decisions. Quite the contrary, the lion is a demanding partner who expects not only complex information about the position or its positioning in the corporate structure, but also development opportunities and directions in the future. They go in-depth when it comes to potential employers: what’s their mission? Vision? Brand value? Goals for the coming 10 years? Strategy? Market position?
These questions demonstrate the lion’s business acumen and signals whether they are a potential match.
Problems can arise when the lion turns out to be a super-mega-ego lion whose unfoundedly demanding attitude doesn’t allow them to progress onto the next recruitment round which is with the employer. Their approach is “the market desires me” instead of “I’m potentially interested”. Employers very often reject those candidates because of their overall impression and not their lack of competencies.
I also come across another type of lions that you have not mentioned. They are usually the ones initiating contact with me. I’d call some of them “Small Big Lions”. He is characterized by the following way of thinking: “I might not have big experience, but I’m ready for a higher position. I want to be a manager. I have certificates. Anything I can’t yet, I’ll learn.”
Small Big Lions require a rather coaching-like conversation, one that won’t clip their wings, but helps them to become aware, that certain stages in their own development processes can’t and/or shouldn’t be skipped. Practical experience that is gathered “on-the-job” can’t be replaced by doing a weekend course.
This kind of lion is usually much more successful in internal recruitment processes, i.e. they are promoted within their current firm instead of being offered a higher position at another one. This is particularly true for management and top management positions. Companies expect from us, headhunters, “ready” candidates, who can demonstrate a successful track record in the desired competencies.
One very important matter when assessing lions is to answer the following question, “Is the organization ready for such a person?” The lion is a very demanding employee who requires
– on-going challenges,
– tasks that help them develop their skills
– perspectives for promotion
– adequate titles
Companies with flat structures or a boss who isn’t aware of the lion’s value (and might even feel threatened by them) are not good places for an ambitious lion. Even if such a company manages to attract a royal lion they must be prepared to suffer the consequences: either the lion or their under-appreciative superior has to go. I’d recommend to include that in the risk analysis when hiring a lion. Organizations that might not be too ready should know what they might be getting themselves into.
I asked Aneta, one of our Career Angels who regularly deals with royal lions,
“What advice do you have for royal lions who are not sure whether their potential boss could feel threatened by them?”
Aneta, “My advice is to be honest with yourself and think if you want to work with somebody who seems to be (in your opinion) weaker or who feels threatened by you. It is much better to work with people who are better than us; people who are real added value to our professional development, no matter how experienced you are. Only the boss who does not feel threatened by you can be an authentic support in achieving your goals.”
“What, if it’s a speculative application?”
Aneta, “That’s easy. Apply to your potential boss’ boss. If you are a strong CEO with experience in both Poland and CEE and you’d like to apply to, let’s say, a competitor. Don’t send your CV to the Polish CEO or the regional CEE Manager – both might seem threatened by you. Apply to HQ instead. It might take more effort to find the correct contact details, but it’s absolutely worth it.”
“Some lions pretend to have a softer management style than they actually have during interviews. Should they do that?”
Aneta, “In my opinion there is no sense in pretending anything. If you get the job despite pretending, you will have to demonstrate your real value, skills, qualifications during the trial period which is usually the first 9 -12 months. If you fail to do that, you’ll be fired. The other important element is that there are companies that live a strong management / leadership style. They might be looking for a strong personality. Softening yourself will not help. It might actually make you miss out on a great opportunity.”
Ladies, thank you very much for sharing!