The surprising trait Jeff Bezos looks for in successful employees

Suzy Welch: The surprising career advice Jeff Bezos gave me

The smartest person in the room is the one who gets ahead the fastest, right?

Not according to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

At Microsoft's CEO Summit in 2013, bestselling author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch asked Bezos the question, "What are you looking for when you promote someone into a leadership position?"

"He said, 'I want people who are right most of the time,'" according to Welch.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images

"It's not about intelligence, per se, or motivating people, or strategic vision, or any of the usual suspects," Welch tells CNBC Make It. "It's much more tangible."

Bezos looks for people who strive to deliver the best results and are willing to make difficult choices to get there. In his words, it's about being "right."

When Welch surmised that meant he wanted the people with the highest IQs, Bezos clarified.

"'I don't care how smart they are,'" she recalls the Amazon founder saying. "'I want to see a track record of hard decisions that ended up being right.'"

"'It's always better in business to be right than smart,'" Bezos continued. "'Smart people can be wrong a lot.'"

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch
CNBC | Mary Stevens

The most successful people aren't necessarily the ones who are the quickest thinkers or the most well-read. They're the ones who focus on delivering the best results and making the tough calls that turn out to be right in the end.

In other words, focus less on your input and more on your output.

"Think about it," Welch says. "Are you striving at work to look and sound smart... or are you striving to be right?"

It's a distinction that could have a huge impact on your career.

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker.

make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us