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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

People often look at me funny when I ask them in an interview: "Who are you?"

I'm convinced that people who have a sense of themselves have already done some important work.

I also believe in the saying: "Hire character, train skill," a well-articulated sentiment by Peter Schutz, a former president of Porsche.

We are lucky at ING Direct to have hired some excellent people. Many of them tend to know who they are as individuals, bringing a level of awareness that removes potential roadblocks to success. People who know their own strengths and potential, and recognize that there's strength in their own personal evolution are likely to be successful and, frankly, are a great bet for us when hiring.

You see, leaders ought to approach the hiring of people with a view of abundance rather than scarcity. I obtained this perspective from blogger and philanthropic adviser Christina Attard, a social media connection. She expressed this so well in her response to one of my tweets about a teammate leaving the organization.

Consider for a moment how our decisions might be different if they are made coming from a basis of fear (scarcity) versus a basis of trust (abundance). We enter a working relationship based on some information and a great deal of trust. We have a general understanding of the person's professional abilities and the mutual growth we are both hoping to achieve.

This relationship is far from a one-way street.

It's crucial to remember that businesses are run by people – people with dreams, aspirations, ideas and expectations. People you hope want to grow, and learn more about themselves. And you should help them do just that. Get to know your people.

It is in the best interests of a business (and its people) to develop a culture of abundance. Many leaders hold back because they fear that the better your people become, the greater the risk that they will leave you.

For most, it is this thinking that almost guarantees that your best people will, in fact, leave. Investing in each other will almost certainly lengthen the relationship, improve the performance of the person and the business, and engender long-term loyalty.

The last thing you want is for people to resent their jobs, their manager and your business because you haven't spent the time understanding who they are, what they want, and because you've refused to acknowledge their potential both inside or outside your organization.

Let's consider that despite all the openness, support and growth opportunities you've provided, a trusted loyal employee still decides to move in a different direction.

I can tell you from the experiences we've had at ING Direct, that the commitment to each other stays strong, and the loyalty is unwavering. These former employees are often our biggest evangelists. And they are out there being leaders, cultivating businesses, fulfilling dreams I'd like to think – in a small part – because we were not afraid to help them grow.

We all learn from each other. We inspire and are inspired. We take, share, apply and grow. So as a leader, I would propose that the next time you think of measuring your success, consider counting a different number, that is, the number of great leaders – inside and outside your organization – that you helped nurture and inspire.

Peter Aceto (@PeterAceto) is president and chief executive officer of ING Direct (@SuperStarSaver).