Top 5 Attributes of a Winning Leadership Team

It’s become pretty well known that we have a winning team at SailPoint. We’re consistently voted one of Austin’s best places to work; we have exceptional employee retention (especially for the tech industry); and people just plain like working here. We strive to ensure each new employee we hire fits not only the job description but also our corporate culture. However, building and maintaining a great team starts from the top, so it’s critical to make good decisions when assembling your organization’s leadership team because you’re also laying the foundation of your company.

Kevin and I have been lucky enough to have many great leaders still with us from our early days at Waveset, and we’ve successfully built on that foundation to create SailPoint’s outstanding leadership team using the following key principles.

  • Competency: You’d think that competency is a given in an executive team member, but that’s not always the case. At SailPoint we look for people who have both the experience and the expertise required to do good work. It’s not about activity, but results, and we can’t expect our employees to deliver results if the company’s leaders don’t do the same.
  • Diversity: While the current thinking around diversity centers on issues of gender, race, and preferences, it’s also important to remember some other fundamental elements of diversity.  For instance, in my estimation, people generally fall into three buckets when it comes to their way of thinking, which I like to compare to Microsoft’s fundamental products. They are typically oriented around either Word (a word person), Excel (a numbers person) or PowerPoint (a visual person). A great team usually has all three “vantage points” among its leaders. Whether you’re looking at it this way, through personality types like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or through predominant attributes like StrengthsFinder, the key is to recognize and value diversity and the fresh thinking it breeds, and leverage it to your team’s advantage.
  • Complementary Skills and Experience: Every great leader knows that if you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find a new room. As noted above, we seek out leaders with the experience and expertise to create a well-rounded, functional leadership team, but those diverse backgrounds also typically make for a more complementary set of viewpoints, skills and experiences, as well. It can be far too easy to fall into the trap of hiring leaders we’ve previously worked with or know in the industry. However, there’s great value in bringing a fresh perspective to an established team. Our CMO joined the marketing team from a non-Identity background, but now works closely with another marketing leader who has been with SailPoint since the early days. That combination of new thinking and historical context creates a potent combination, and they’ve both become better leaders as a result of working together.
  • Adaptability: If you’ve ever worked at a startup, you know that the only constant is change. When we hire leaders, we look for people who can adapt as the business needs change over time while continuing to provide value. Despite having a great internal IT leader, we recently hired a CIO to scale our internal information infrastructure. Both employees bring different skill sets and experiences, but what they have in common is the tremendous value they bring to our team and their ability to adapt to this rapidly changing work environment.
  • Shared Values: Our Core Values are the most important attributes we look for when adding to our leadership team, just as it is with every employee. We developed these values many years ago, and we’ve adapted and carried them with us to each new business venture. We simply can’t compromise on things like integrity and innovation, because they’re intrinsic to SailPoint and the work that we do. These core values are the foundation of our culture and the leadership team is charged with reinforcing them, and upholding them throughout the organization.

These five principles are the recipe for success in our leadership team at SailPoint.  In turn, our leadership team passes them down throughout the organization as they build their own teams, making the entire organization stronger. Our leadership team’s commitment to these principles and our values not only makes SailPoint successful, but also makes it a place where people want to bring their very best to work every day.