Look for the best leaders to work for – Not the best company

February 23, 2022
Kelly O'Flynn Global Account Manager

A recent study from MIT found that innovative companies like Telsa and Netflix experience far higher attrition rates than their more conservative counterparts.

Isn’t that strange? 

The very companies candidates most fantasise about working for – and clients most want to emulate – are the ones that struggle the most to retain their talent.

It seems almost backwards.

Until you consider the motivation behind those fantasies – at which point it all starts to make sense.

Chasing prestige won’t make you happy

The majority of candidates that are hell bent on working for Tesla or Netflix are completely mesmerised by the company’s reputation.  

The idea of working there is so powerful they don’t stop to consider the everyday reality of that environment. 

And that means they often don’t fully consider whether the company will actually make them happy or help them thrive.

It’s easy to seek validation from your employment status, and focus obsessively on employers that look good on your resume.

But the truth is, we should all focus significantly less on the reputation of prospective employers – and more on the actual people we end up working for.

The average person has 12 bosses across their career

That means every new leader you work under has an astonishing influence over your overall career trajectory – as well as your personal development.

A single bad experience can set you back years

And that means focusing on what your LinkedIn feed will think of your latest move can do far more harm than you might realise.

Here are three reasons you should look for the best leaders – not the best company:

1. Leaders grow people, businesses grow profit

If you talk to virtually any person who’s really excelled in their career, they will have at least one story about a key mentor. 

Someone who took a shine to them, or saw their potential. 

And more often than not, they will tell you that without that mentor, they never would have realised their ambitions. 

Businesses can grow your reputation and professional visibility. 

But it is really only people that can make that human connection and help you grow.

2. Leaders can fix companies, but companies can’t fix leaders

There are plenty of stories about businesses that were toxic places to work – until that one leader managed to turn things around.

What you hear less often are stories about toxic leaders who turned up at a great company – and were suddenly cured of all their bad qualities.

For prospective employees, all that matters is what a company is like for today.

And that means it is the current leadership – not the historical reputation – that will define a candidate’s experience.

3. When times get tough, great leaders get you through

The pandemic has made abundantly clear how vital strong leadership is.

We’ve seen great companies fail spectacularly in their response, and previously unremarkable companies really step up for their employees.

The common denominator in every organisation that responded well?

Strong, resilient leaders who care about their people.

And that is why we believe leadership matters more than company reputation.

It doesn’t matter how good a company looks on your CV if it fundamentally doesn’t value your contribution.

And no benefits package or pay cheque is worth putting up with a bad leader.