I’ve worked in training leaders at the world’s top companies for 25 years, but I never would have envisioned this career path when I was in college. I head leadership development at JPMorgan Chase & Co., but I majored in French and started my career as a translator. It’s not your typical entry point into a career as a leadership development expert, but my early experience working across nationalities, experience levels, and personality types helped me cultivate flexibility and curiosity—key traits for today’s leaders.
The business effect of strong leadership is hard to overstate: One study of the financial performance of a division of Fortune 500 bank 1 found that “great” leaders accounted for almost double the profits of their “good” and “bad” counterparts. But elevating people into the “great” category presents a few universal and fundamental challenges—the ones I see the most are: hiring the right candidates, fostering skills for an evolving workplace, and coaching and mentoring talent.
To help tackle these issues, we developed tools and programs specific to our culture here at JPMorgan Chase, but I think the philosophy behind them can be adopted by any company to help its people thrive. Here are three areas companies can focus on to build better leaders.
A business track record, technical skills, and even an IQ test can tell us if a candidate meets on-paper qualifications. But they only reveal so much about a person’s ability to lead. Evaluating an applicant’s emotional quotient, or EQ, requires that interviewers look beyond whether someone can do the job, and evaluate how they will do the job.
At JPMorgan Chase, we look for people with humanity, humility, and integrity. We then consider their eagerness to embrace what we call end-to-end leadership, demonstrating that they understand the importance of their team in the broader business landscape. Lastly, we look for people who offer diverse perspectives and are genuinely interested in parts of our business outside their area of expertise.
These values shape our particular culture and reflect our strategic priorities. While values vary by company, anyone hiring should be able to identify the qualities prioritized by their organization. A good way to get a sense of a candidate’s character is to ask for stories about work and life experiences and how resilient they are. The act of storytelling allows an interviewee’s humanity to shine through and reveals his or her emotional strengths.
Hiring is, of course, just the beginning. We’ve seen that continued success also depends on a leader’s ability to seek out new challenges and tackle them with agility.
This is best developed through experience. We strongly believe that 90% of leadership development happens on the job, and through continuous exposure to different lines of business, functions, cultures, and countries. We’ve found that as businesses become more interconnected and cross-functional, the best leaders show curiosity about areas of expertise outside their own. They lead with the entire value chain in mind, not just their direct area of oversight.
Rising leaders demonstrate curiosity and gain an end-to-end perspective by taking responsibility for their own continuous learning. Formal education is only the first step—those who take the initiative to learn new skills and technologies after they leave the classroom have a veritable leg up on the corporate ladder. Each meeting, interaction, conference, and connection presents an opportunity to acquire knowledge, open doors, and learn about different areas of business.
As the world becomes ever more digital, it is also important for leaders to demonstrate a willingness to learn new technologies at the pace with which they emerge. This gives them a digital fluency that can help them grow in their fields and navigate areas outside of their own too.
At JPMorgan Chase, we have formal training programs that offer leaders the support and guidance they need to take risks and move around within the company. But structured training programs will only take a rising leader so far; an equally important component to professional development, we believe, is receiving in the moment coaching from managers. This is why we’ve added education on coaching skills to our Leadership Edge training program.
Mentorship can also complement training programs and help ensure that emerging leaders get the personalized attention and connections they need. We don’t have a company-wide, formalized mentorship program at JPMorgan Chase because we’ve found that mentorship works best when it’s organic. We create forums for emerging talent and established leaders to meet and get to know one another, and that’s where mentorship relationships can naturally form.
Leadership training benefits the entire company. This kind of structured support goes beyond JPMorgan Chase: We can all implement strategies like this to help our people be the most effective leaders.
As Head of Leadership Development at JPMorgan Chase, Inger Buus and her team are responsible for training more than 40,000 managers in more than 40 locations worldwide, ensuring they have the mindset, skills, and tools to be the best leaders possible.
This article was produced on behalf of JPMorgan Chase & Co. by Quartz Creative and not by the Quartz editorial staff.