Jeff Weiner W’92, CEO of LinkedIn, recently received the Wharton Entrepreneurship Alumni Achievement Award. As part of the award ceremony, Jeff engaged in a fireside chat with his friend and Wharton classmate Andrew Trader W’91/WG’99, during which he shared some of his entrepreneurial wisdom and described the skill sets of the five people he’s always looking to hire, and who are essential to the success of any business. In his own words, they are:
Today’s world is increasingly driven by technology, so it’s invaluable to have someone on the team who understands how technology is evolving and the way in which it’s going to be shaping society. The ability to get in front of those trends can unlock enormous value. Two examples of people who showed this ability are Bill Gates, for recognizing that the cost of computing would continue to drop such that there would be a computer on every desk top, and Elon Musk, who did something very similar with regard to the cost curve on sustainable capital electricity, specifically, what that did for Tesla.
If you only have technology vision it will make for an interesting white paper, or maybe a patent, but that’s as far as it goes. I think it’s also critical that you have product sensibility. By this I’m talking about an ability to understand unmet needs of the marketplace and how the technology can be leveraged to meet those unmet needs. Steve Jobs was as good as it gets when it comes to product sensibility.
You can know how technology is evolving and have fantastic product sensibility, but if you don’t have a sustainable business model your product and company are not going to be around for very long. We saw this in the late ‘90s: some very interesting ideas, but the business models weren’t there. What these companies needed is what all companies need—business acumen and an understanding of how to balance the creative side with how businesses really work.
A trait I look for in a good leader is the ability to inspire others to share objectives. You’re going to have to be able to clearly communicate your vision in a way that inspires others to follow. This is true for the two-person startup trying to get financing, and it still holds true when you’re leading thousands of people at a multinational organization.
The fifth skill or tool is what I consider to be most important: it’s resourcefulness. If you’re going to lead you’re going to need resourcefulness because you’re always going to run into walls. The secret of being resourceful is recognizing when you need greater support in the other four skills previously mentioned, so you hire the right people with those skillsets. Resourcefulness will help support the overarching goal of the company.
At the end of the day, if you find anyone superlative at any one of those skills, you’ve got your talent. Two skills: fantastic. Five skills? Good luck hiring them, because these are the people who will be in the highest demand. These are the future Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs.
Editor’s Note: We can’t resist also including Jeff’s recollection of his experience in Management 251: Consulting to Growth Companies, a course he took at Wharton:
I took a management class at Penn that really changed my entire career path. It was the Fall of 1991, and we were doing consulting for businesses in Philadelphia. I consulted with three engineers from DuPont. They decided they were going to leverage this new emerging technology called “the internet” to create a desktop video teleconferencing system. They described the internet, and they said, “You won’t be able to commercialize it.” Needless to say, it didn’t go very far with that kind of vision. But it was my first introduction to the technology and it led to where I am today so I will be forever grateful for that.
Bio: Jeff Weiner, W’92, is CEO of LinkedIn, the world’s largest and most powerful network of professionals. He joined the company in December 2008, and under his leadership, LinkedIn has rapidly expanded its global platform to 19 languages and 26 offices around the world, grown its membership base from 33 million to 238 million members and increased its revenue more than tenfold to $972 million in 2012.