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Potential vs. Credential: Choosing the Right People

Potential vs. CredentialYesterday I wrote about the importance of choosing your first hire wisely. Today I want to talk about what that looks like.

successful leader is one who is always looking forward. They always have their eye on the long-term vision without losing focus of near-term needs. When faced with a hiring decision, they know that they can either hire a follower or a leader. A follower will simply play the game. A leader will change the game.

How do you tell the difference?

Followers want to talk about credentials. They’ll tell you all about what school they went to. You’ll read about the various positions they’ve held at other companies. They’ll tout awards and accolades. It’s all about what they’ve done and how they can do the same for you.

Leaders want to talk about possibilites. They have all of the same credentials as the follower, but their focus is on the future. They don’t want to talk about what they’ve done as much as what they’ve created. They want to talk about how they can take those skills and help you create something better.

Features vs. Benefits

In Sales 101 class, we all learned that you always want to emphasize benefits as opposed to features. You can’t sell the bells and whistles of any product unless you explain how they benefit the consumer in a real, tangible way. We all know this instinctively, but fail to apply it when hiring or recruiting.

The follower-type will tell you all about his or her features, a.k.a credentials. That is what they’ll rest on. Credential is stagnant. It is state of a person after they’ve expended their energy.

The leader will sell you benefits, a.k.a potential. This is their rocket fuel. It is a jumping off point. Potential is the state of a person before they’ve expended their useful energy.

Forward Motion

Our ability to succeed in any endeavor, whether its a business or non-profit, is dictated by potential, not credential. It is only potential energy that can be tapped into in order for us to push forward. If you don’t hire the right people to bring that potential energy into your business, you will not move forward.

Hire for potential, not for credential.


This is not to say that you can’t develop a follower to be a leader. You absolutely can and I would urge you to do so without ceasing. You only get to do that, however, after you’ve brought in the right leaders to build your business and afford you the flexibility to do so.


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