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Lead Your Team Leadership

Leadership Lessons: Irv Shapiro, CEO of DialogTech

There's no one "right" way to lead a business. Today's leaders have a lot of wisdom to impart about managing the modern workforce, because each one approaches leadership in his or her own unique way. Every week, Business News Daily will share a leadership lesson from a successful business owner or executive.

  • The leader: Irv Shapiro, CEO of DialogTech
  • Time in current position: 11 years
  • Irv's philosophy: "Hire SWANs — people who are Smart, hard Workers, Ambitious and Nice." (Click to tweet)

Shapiro explains the experiences that helped form his personal leadership philosophy:

As an entrepreneur and company founder, you often feel like the smartest person in the room. This is a delusion. There is no better way to build a scalable company than to hire people smarter than you, in fact hire the smartest people you can find. At DialogTech, we call these people SWANs: They're smart, work hard, and are ambitious and nice.

I developed the concept of SWANs at the first company I started, Metamor Technology. We grew to over 500 employees in 12 years, and with that number of employees, we needed a consistent strategy for communicating our hiring requirements. This strategy has proven successful as DialogTech is the third company I have built.

Hiring this way can create interesting challenge. Your SWANs may want to pursue their own paths; however, your job as CEO is to create a shared vision. This is not easy, and at times it can feel like herding cats, but the lack of conformity often leads to breakthrough product innovation.

The best way to create this shared vision for your team is to align as many company policies and procedures with the shared values of your employees. For example, here we hire smart people and give them the flexibility and autonomy to do their jobs. We prove it by providing an open vacation policy and flexible working hours, because we measure results, not time.  

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.