By Dinte
March 13, 2012

“Every organization needs people with the skills to do the job,” Clarissa Peterson, Chief People Officer at DLA Piper, explained at lunch with the Dinte team earlier this week. “But what organizations really need are leaders who they can trust their business assets with.”

Clarissa has been a long time friend of Dinte Global Executive Search.  After a well received presentation on core competencies at the 2010 Americas IIC Partners Conference hosted by Dinte in Washington, DC, we knew we had to invite her back to speak with the Dinte Team.

Since 2005, Clarissa has worked for DLA Piper, the world’s largest law firm.  While she has had a successful global career, she had no previous experience in the legal industry before this position. However, she has had years of experience in building large scale teams made up of people with both the skill set and more importantly, the culture competencies to ensure success within the organization. Whether Clarissa is managing an internal leadership search or working with an executive search firm like Dinte Global Executive Search, she knows how to identify the best candidates by getting to the heart of the candidate’s core competencies and behaviors.

Interestingly, at Dinte we are very much in alignment with Clarissa. We agree that having the skills is simply the price of admission but having the core competencies enables the candidate to be truly successful.

She told us that many companies from various industries send employees to training at the Center for Creative Leadership.  A recent study by a management consulting firm determined that 67 leadership traits could be found in each one of the people that attended the training. Clarissa explained that these are the traits that separate the best from the rest.

However, an organization cannot look for a laundry list of 67 traits every time a new leader is needed.  Clarissa recommends dividing this list of core competencies into three categories: mission critical, very important, and important. This exercise should be repeated until the organization is left with 6 to 8 mission critical competencies.  This helps an organization focus on what is truly important in the next executive leader.

“An organization may think they need X in an employee but they really need X, Y, and Z,” Clarissa elaborates. Even with a short list of competencies, Clarissa says the best searches identify candidates who are prepared to anticipate change and implement innovative solutions in a fast paced business environment. The best candidates know that while they may have one job title, they need to be prepared to wear a number of hats and effectively duck, bob, and weave.

Clarissa also reminded us that leadership is not simply reserved for the top level management of an organization.  In fact, it should be practiced and encouraged by everyone in the organization. The best leaders know how to inspire others to believe in their vision and move forward accordingly.

The Dinte team would like to thank Clarissa for taking the time to speak with us and offering her industry insight. To learn more about Clarissa Peterson’s experience, please find her on LinkedIn.

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