As a talent management consultant for an architecture consulting firm I am often asked what I look for in an up and coming architect and my first answer is usually: at least a few years’ experience in the discipline as well as formal training.  However, after an 18 year career in talent management and psychometric interpretation, with 8 of those in architecture, it has become glaringly obvious to me (call it intuition or experience) that there are a few fundamental skills that have been evident in those I have noticed early on in their careers and which I now hold up as a comparison when interviewing junior architects.

Great architects come in all shapes and sizes; some are true innovators who have a radical change embracing mind-set with the ability to always look for creative and new ideas; others are the implementers who have the discipline and drive to make things happen; and let’s not forget the inspector completers who have a great capacity for follow-through and attention to detail and quite frankly, without whom nothing would get done.   Introvert or extrovert, conscientious or expedient, self-doubting or confident, all of these primary personality factors will most certainly make a difference to your style of architecture, but from my experience, can have very little to do with the indicator of greatness.

I have been privileged to follow the careers of many successful architects and IT leaders. Consequently, I feel well qualified to single out from the very beginning in most, if not all cases, a few of the more personal  talents that I have come to understand as present. All of these architects share a number of very similar traits, but the ones I specifically look for when interviewing junior architects would most definitely be: the ability to truly listen and digest information (seems like a no-brainer to most of us but you would be surprised how many of us either lack this trait or have lost it along the way); the candidate who looks not to be right but who looks to find the right answer; and most importantly, those that take their audience into consideration and act accordingly. All of the above and a fair whack of emotional intelligence could very well be the secret to success, specifically in the art of successful business design.   As the old saying goes knowledge is power and People could very well be the most important part of “People, Process and Technology”.

Many of us can attest to the experience that in our 20’s we were all about being heard; not only making sure we had something interesting and intelligent to say but wasting little time getting our point across. I’m sure many of us in those days would have found it very difficult on leaving a meeting to recite much, if anything, anyone else imparted.  In our 30’s things changed slightly, our confidence in our abilities started to take shape and we naturally found ourselves able to hold back our opinions. We became less self-absorbed and opened our ears to those around us, thus we see our emotional intelligence starting to take shape. Reaching our 40’s and 50’s we have become the quintessential old dog with lots of tricks and enough confidence in our life and work experiences to truly listen to all of those around us before backing the best idea in the room.   In my view a great enterprise architect needs to be well and truly beyond their years with ability to be all of the above long before they are naturally inclined.

So the next time I am asked what makes a great architect I will simply reply “anyone who practises the art of listening and takes the time to know themselves and those around them”, as those individuals are truly the junior architects I will go out on a limb for and chance my professional reputation on.