Seek Strong Subordinates


Many managers are afraid to hire people better than themselves. That’s a huge unforced error. As Jack Welch once said, “the smartest people in the world hire the smartest people in the world.”

If you hire weak perfomers, “Bs” and “Cs” rather than “A’s,” you are doing yourself and your organization a serious disservice.  This is something that great business thinkers have understood for quite some time.

One of the most surprising things I learned about Peter Drucker was how he felt about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While most historians and citizens from the era regarded FDR as a great leader, Drucker felt that our 32nd president was so insecure that he sought to “undercut” anyone he viewed as a threat. That convinced Drucker that FDR was a poor administrator and a weak leader in important areas.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, felt the same way about hiring. He said that management’s first priority is not coming up with the right strategy, but making sure that you have the right people “on the bus.”  All else follows getting the right team on board first.   

If you fear so much for your job that you would consider hiring a sub-par performer, then you have already lost. The most effective leaders know this in their bones, which is why they try to fill every position with strength. Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses is a key theme in The Unforced Error. It is the responsibility of every manager to bring strength to his or her organization whether we are talking about products, ideas, or people—especially people.


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