Suzy Welch: The surprising trait Jeff Bezos looks for in successful employees

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Suzy Welch: The surprising career advice Jeff Bezos gave me

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is known for his unconventional leadership outlook. 

He separates decisions into "Type 1" and "Type 2," differentiating between those that are mission-critical and should be handled by top executives and those that can be re-evaluated over time and handled by teams. He's said in the past that he wants to hire employees with a "pioneering spirit" and the courage to question authority. He doesn't mind if that means these employees are rebels, or "a little bit annoying." 

And once you've been hired for one of those roles, Bezos knows how to spot those he wants to become leaders. Bestselling author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch tells CNBC Make It that in 2013, at Microsoft's CEO Summit, she asked Bezos a simple question: "What are you looking for when you promote someone into a leadership position?"

CNBC contributor Suzy Welch

His answer surprised her. "It's not about intelligence, per se, or motivating people, or strategic vision, or any of the usual suspects," Welch says. "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, he 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."

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. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at gettowork@cnbc.com.

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