I sometimes hear firms say "we just don't have the RIGHT people."
I've worked with several firms lately helping them define the desirable characteristics necessary for success in a given role as they prepare to hire for the position.
First we brainstorm all the qualities the firm would like for the role be it a strong manager, a future partner, a good mid-level, etc. Then we decide which are "must-haves" for that role. The others would be in the category of "would be a plus."
Firms tend to first put nearly everything into the "must have" category. Upon pointing out that this may be a bit unrealistic, some good thinking and discussion go into what are bonus characteristics versus core needs.
Then it's really interesting to re-sort all the traits by what they see as born traits and which can be learned.
It's always very enlightening to hear how the firm thinks their existing partners, managers, seniors, etc. fit--or don't fit--into these optimal characteristics. More importantly, it also seems to help the firms to better appreciate the strengths of the people they currently have.
It certainly helps, even subliminally, in the hiring process. It is well worth the time.
The Leadership Crisis
It's funny but smaller firms tend to find themselves in a cycle of hiring multiple people with similar personality types--whatever it is the hiring persons are most drawn to. And seldom do people in CPA firms seem to hire or retain those who are more aggressive, assertive, confident, whatever… than they are. (I think this is not as prevalent in law or larger firms.)
Wouldn't this mean that these firms get become progressively less leadership-oriented over the years??
If not setting about to actively look for leadership traits in new hires, since it is unlikely for people to later acquire leadership qualities, an organization would seem to be setting itself up for a serious shortage of future leaders/inspirers/motivators in their ranks.