When it comes to picking a leader, a general assumption has been to look at someone with a lengthy resumé, let’s say one with a slew of CEO stints, and assume that success will be imminent.
According to The Intangibles of Leadership author Richard A. Davis Ph.D., this assumption — which he refers to as the grey hair fallacy — is not uncommon.
“People assume that grey hair is a determinant of success” says Davis.
“CEOs are hired because they have been CEOs before, many times regardless of what industry or company they come from.”
Davis gives the example of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, owners of Le Meridien, Sheraton, Westin and W Hotel brands, hiring of Steven Heyer, then COO and President of Coca-Cola, to lead the global hotel company.
Despite having been publically lauded by Starwood Chairman Barry Sternlicht as “a marketer who has championed some of the world’s most valuable and global brands,” Heyer did not work out.
When it came to fit, Heyer’s leadership style, a direct and hard-nosed approach, was not a match for Starwood culture.
Davis points out that “leaders aren’t wise as a result of their experiences. They are wise because of their ability to utilize those experiences.”
More importantly age is not a precursor.
A management psychologist by trade, Davis’ book describes what he refers to as the “intangibles of leadership” which are “interstitial characteristics — traits that fall between the lines of existing leadership models.”
Wisdom being one of these characteristics, others include executive maturity, integrity, self-insight, fallibility and fortitude.
Davis’ insights poke a few holes in the traditional resumé scan, and describe a kind of leader that would be an asset to any organization.