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Ep 39: The 3 Most Important Traits For Leaders And How To Interview For Them – Igor & Benji

3 Characteristics you need to look for in leaders, but also HOW YOU INTERVIEW for leadership. Which is the tricky part.
The specific questions you need to ask during an interview to assess someone’s ability to lead
How to ask questions the interviewee can’t BS their way through
What’s at stake if you hire someone without the 3 characteristics
Examples of people who lack of these traits and how they will show up on the jobsite
The difference between which traits you can train vs which ones you can’t

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Read a Summary of Episode 39

Interviews can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. The interviewee turns up, bringing what they think is their A-game, but really, it’s their C-game…at best.

A growing company needs people to step up, lead divisions, initiatives, and small teams. But how do you assess whether someone has what it takes to be a driving force in your business?

In this episode, Igor and I delve in 3 Critical Leadership Traits & How To Interview For Them. 

Having completed 1000s of interviews for a multitude of leadership roles (from general managers and operations to sales managers and site supervisors), we tackle this head on because, to be frank, if managers/supervisors aren’t strong in these 3 key areas, we don’t even entertain the idea of employing them.



Basically, this relates to their goal orientation.

Simple Definition:

Attainment is a person’s natural preference to set and hit goals. These folks are linear thinkers. They are naturally wired to look at a goal and reverse engineer the steps to get there.

You can give people with Attainment strategic direction and they will take the onus on themselves to get it done.

Having completed 1000s of interviews for a multitude of leadership roles (from general managers and operations to sales managers and site supervisors), we tackle this head on because, to be frank, if managers/supervisors aren't strong in these 3 key areas, we don't even entertain the idea of employing them.

What’s at stake by hiring someone without Attainment:

People without attainment are difficult to motivate. It will be exhausting for you as a business leader. You will need to keep chasing them to see if they have fulfilled their goals. And no leader needs to wear even more hats.

Interview questions to assess for Attainment:

One way to establish their level of attainment during an interview is to ask them to think about the 3 biggest goals they’ve set themselves, then, take a coffee break, and leave the person with a blank piece of paper and pen so they can really think.

When you return, dig into their answers. Ask them: “Why was that goal important to you?” “What was the deadline?” “What steps did you take to hit that goal?”

There should be a linear path with the steps they took to achieve it. They should have a track record of the same type of behaviour in their work, sports, school etc.

How to see through the BS: To see if they are BS-ing you or not, check their level of detail. Someone telling the truth will be able to give you intricacies in a very definite way.


This relates to a person’s capacity for stress.

Simple Definition:

The ability to stay in pursuit of a goal despite obstacles and challenges. These people are stoic and calm in the storm. They stay level headed. It’s basically peak Tom Brady doing a two minute drive at the end of a game.

What’s at stake by hiring someone without Fundamental:

Stuff goes wrong in business and life. Unplanned events, weather, change orders, customer demands, staff quitting, even life outside of work like breakups. If every single thing that doesn’t go to plan sends someone into a tailspin it’s difficult to get anything done. Without fundamental a person can be toxic to a crew: they do a lot of finger pointing because the stress gets to them.

Interview questions to assess for Fundamental:

Before assessing this, you will need to have spent time getting to know the person because this goes deep. Again, ask them to think about the 2 most stressful times they have ever dealt with and leave them with a piece of paper to think about it. When you return, dig deep again. Ask them questions like: “Why was it so stressful? “What made it difficult” “What else was going on in your life during this time.” You want to see how they were able to manage the situation as well as all the other things in their life, and the steps they took to get through it.

Again, you need to look at their past record for evidence of this. And don’t make assumptions that a person will change.

How to see through the BS: If there seems to be some sugar coating because they are avoiding details, use reference checks with the people who were there during the time they mentioned. Ask them about specifics during that time in their life and get a feel for how it looked from another angle.


In other words, their work ethic.

Simple Definition: This is a person’s preference to overcome challenges through pure hard work. You want to know if they will put it all on the line when they have to.

We’ve all sucked at something in our work history, but when you work your butt off with tenacity, you will pull it off.

What’s at stake by hiring someone without Tenacity:

As an entrepreneur, seeing anyone without tenacity will grind your gears! These people won’t be able to get their ass in gear at those crunch moments; something you as an entrepreneur do naturally.

Interview questions to assess for tenacity:

You want to find out about those super hard times in their life and how they got through. Examples can be in work, sports, or even extracurricular activities. Questions to gauge tenacity include: “Think about the one time in your life when you’ve had to work the absolute hardest. What was the most grueling experience where you have had to hustle like never before.” Let them think about that for a second. Then unpack the answer by asking them what was most difficult about it. Get them to paint the picture of what each day looked like. What kept them going?


Unlike other traits, these 3 characteristics can’t be taught; they are naturally wired this way.

In the end, no matter how much you like someone and how great a fit they are, if a person who will be assuming a managerial role doesn’t have these 3 traits, you’ll regret it 6 months down the line, and we wouldn’t want that.

Benji Carlson

Benji Carlson

As the son of two proven entrepreneurs, Benji’s spirit for self-starting business runs deep. Since he was a young teen, Benji has been starting and running profitable small businesses; most recently culminating in a highly successful 4-year career as a franchisee with College Pro Painters. Benji’s enormous heart and passion for people is what drove him to produce over $1,000,000 in revenue while taking the highest quality care of his employees and customers. He was consistently acknowledged for having the most productive staff in the company, while leading more junior franchisees to fulfill their potential. Benji’s uncanny ability to find the right people and put them in the right place make him a natural fit for Breakthrough Academy’s Assessment Team.

Upon finishing up his career with College Pro, Benji set out on the ultimate victory lap: a nine-month transcontinental motorcycle trip from Canada to Peru.

Benji lives in beautiful Kelowna BC. During the summer you’ll usually find him on two wheels: either bombing down a trail on his mountain bike or cruising the pavement on his motorcycle. When the snow falls, he escapes to the mountains for steep and deep powder.

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