May 6, 2022 - Economy & Business

The "Roy Rule" on hiring

Illustration of a coffee mug with the Axios logo with steam forming a thought bubble
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Roy Schwartz, Axios co-founder and president, has a provocative hiring rule: Always go for people who want and can do your job.

Why it matters: Too many managers hire too defensively — they want to protect their own gig while not getting overshadowed by dazzling talent below. Or they hire too passively — they simply want butts in seats to be able to check off their list. This is why so many institutions grow complacent or rot.

The only way to be a great leader — and to create a great organization — is to have the self-confidence to hire people who might be better, and shine brighter, than you from the get-go.

  • This applies more broadly to life: Too often, we fear being around people who work harder, exercise more frequently or volunteer more cheerily. It's human nature to want to measure ourselves against people who aren't outpacing us. What better way to look good?!

But here's the secret: The easiest way to get better at something is to surround yourself with people better than you — and learn.

  • 💡 In the workplace, the big winners are self-confident leaders who hire exceptionally motivated and talented staff.

Four tips:

  1. Embrace ambition: You want people who are hungry, hyper-motivated, hellbent on being the best at what they do. Look for signs of competitiveness and preparation beyond wishful, aspirational talk. Most successful people stack wins on top of wins.
  2. Iron sharpens iron: You will rarely run faster by running with someone slower. In work and life, it takes a mix of confidence and humility to draft off those better, faster, smarter to up your own game. Fear holds us back.
  3. Beware of "I": One telltale red flag is when people take credit for those previous wins, and characterize themselves as the hero. You want people who use "we" a lot and speak persuasively about how they helped tease out others' terrific work.
  4. Play the long game: The moment you decide to get into management or leadership, you rely on others to succeed — and to make you look good. So you need superstar talent. Yes, that might mean their ambition leads them to leave one day for a faster rise elsewhere. But that simply means your network of success stories grows.

The bottom line: As CEO, I often tell investors and others that our greatest success at Axios has been creating an executive team full of future CEOs.

  • Many of them probably dream of being Axios CEO one day — and definitely could do it.
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