Big Five for Life

by Myles Tanner

Every Cloud…

Before Christmas, I received feedback from one of our clients, letting me know that a candidate they had met was unsuccessful at interview. While this is never nice, it is a standard part of the recruitment cycle and as such, I called the candidate to give her the news. As expected, she was disappointed, but unusually (and humbly), she said she expected this would be the case, and recommended that I read ‘Big Five For Life’ to find out why it didn’t work out. Whilst this isn’t the usual reaction to being turned down for a job, I thought why not and the next day Amazon Prime delivered.

First Glance

With a title like ‘The Big Five For Life’, I suppose it is unsurprising that this book is regarded as a mandatory lecture for leadership teams in many blue-chip organizations; including IBM and Estée Lauder. In short, it follows the story of an incredibly successful Chicago-based businessman and his unique approach in leadership. Simply put, it is a must-read for any aspiring (or even already accomplished) leader.

Whilst unorthodox, the leadership principles that are used by Thomas Derale (the fictional CEO in the book) are incredibly thought provoking and have actually already contributed to some substantial change in our approach as a business.

Making it Count

So, what did I learn from the book? Spoiler Alert: The ‘Big Five For Life’ is the concept of achieving your top 5 goals in your life; judging your success based on how many of those you are able to achieve. This notion is born from the ‘big five’ on an African safari, where the success of the tour is typically based on how many of the ‘big five’ you had the fortune of seeing (Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Rhino and Buffalo). Without giving too much of the book away, the emphasis is on hiring people who match the vision/purpose of your company; whilst also giving your employees all of the tools they require to achieve their ‘Big Five For Life’.

Kite have been quite fortunate that one of the key hiring criteria we have is to make sure the people we onboard share the same vision and can align their personal ambition with the journey we continue to go on. Now, have we introduced the concept of everyone in the business picking their ‘Big Five For Life’? The answer is no, but the story of Thomas Derale has sparked conversations leading to more structure goals, support and motivation sessions to help our people achieve not only their work targets but their personal ambitions as well.

The number one thing I’ve taken away from the book, is if you can align your business objectives (or ‘purpose for existing’ as the book would say) with those of your staff, the impact on motivation and output will be exponential. Your people are your number one asset. Yet hiring is more complex than ever and getting it right is paramount to your organization’s success.

Lastly, a big thank you to the candidate who recommended this read. Whilst I genuinely wish she had got the role she had interviewed for, the impact the book has had on my outlook to leadership is a big positive!

Big Five for Life is available in all the places you’d expect it to be. To read more about the author, John Strelecky, visit


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