On August 9 at NEA’s offices in San Francisco, more than 150 venture capitalists and entrepreneurs joined Parity Partners to listen to a panel discussion on Leadership. The session was the 4th Parity Talk as part of the P3 curriculum. P3 (Parity Professional Program) is an education initiative created by Parity Partners that aims to build new leaders and diverse work cultures in high impact sectors.
P3’s 4th Talk was designed to give attendees and program participants the tools they need to craft a path to the C-suite, a process that often lacks transparency. During the hour-long discussion, the expert panel shed light on what executive recruiters and senior managers look for when they evaluate the potential and achievements of promising candidates.
Panelists included Gia Scinto, Head of Talent at Y Combinator, Melissa Taunton, Partner at NEA, and Andy Price, Mentor-in-Residence at Index Ventures. The discussion was moderated by Hilary Gosher, Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners and founding member of Parity Partners.
In the tech industry, companies develop a product through consciously building features that customers value and want to purchase. In the talent environment, the individual is akin to the product, and one of the features that the market values is leadership.
Leadership is multi-faceted. First, leaders require a goal and vision for what the organization or team should achieve. Second, leaders are able to translate that vision into action. Lastly, leaders empower and excite people on the team, and work with them to create an environment of personal learning and accomplishment.
Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM has noted, that leadership is difficult. A leader should “always take on things you’ve never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist”.
Andy Price, an executive recruiter for 22 years who has completed more than 500 searches and recruited dozens of CEOs for high-growth startups and multi-billion dollar public companies, says that when he evaluates talent, he looks beyond “relevant experience” to understand what drives people. He looks for people who “have a thesis or a point of view” worth defending, especially emerging venture capitalists. Leaders put a stake in the ground and have specific ideas about what the team vision or investment strategy should be. They are prepared to explain and defend their point of view.
Melissa Taunton, who focuses on executive talent acquisition across NEA’s portfolio, highlights “integrity and authenticity” as key factors she looks for in leaders. She explains that the best leaders “really understand what they are good at...and they play to their strengths.” Leaders that are aware of their own capabilities, can then surround themselves with team members who have complementary skills. For Ms. Taunton, it’s clear that leaders have strengths and they have honed their capabilities in specific areas.
When asked “what advice would you give to women in this audience about being a leader?”, Gia Scinto, who has recruited talent for Andreessen Horowitz, Google and now Y Combinator, recommends that people be “opinionated, definitely authentic, be human, be kind, and don’t try to be perfect.”
Ms. Scinto adds that you should remember to “weave in the personal into the professional” so your personal narrative is not lost in an effort to be perfect.
Among other questions, the panel also touched on mentorship, common mistakes emerging leaders make, and how leaders can create a climate of trust in the teams they lead. The full Parity Talk can be listened to and watched below.