The Attitude-Aptitude Curve



Top of mind this week is what two recent search candidates referred to as either the “Attitude-Aptitude” curve, or (my favorite) “Bull**** to Dollars” ratio. Of course, these immediately recognizable euphemisms refer to how much we’re willing to put up with “difficult” people, and it generally implies the following logic—if you’re going to be a PITA, you better bring some serious value to the table. 


The more professional, or mature (sigh) way to think about this is as a 2-way interaction between competencies and personality (as expressed through emotional intelligence). In this case the ideal is the high-high condition (i.e., great competencies/great personality-EQ). Let’s face it, these people are awesome and it would be a boon for society if they had gaggles of children and ran for elected office more often. 


As evidence that the universe may actually be just and merciful, those who occupy the opposite quadrant (low-low) rarely make it to, or stay long in, positions of leadership (though they do, admittedly, seem to inflict more than their fair share of pain and misery on others in the process…). 


That leaves the remaining mixed (high-low) categories. The funny thing here is that general consensus among clients and executives alike is that the preferable compromise is high competency/low personality-EQ and, hence, the aforementioned Attitude-Aptitude and Bull*** to Dollars calculus. 


While I guess it does make sense from a business perspective that, given a forced choice, competencies should win the day, the true litmus test for effective executive selection is helping clients to avoid such a compromise in the first place.

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