I have hired a lot of people in my life. I stopped counting after I got to three hundred. But the hardest hiring decision of my career, without a doubt, was the time I was faced with the opportunity to hire the runner up for the job I held. I worked really hard to interview for this job I got. The CEO who hired me tells me he got 500 applications. It came down to me and one other guy. I barely got the job, and let me emphasize barely. Well, some months into employment here I opened up a new role on my team and this candidate applied. We decided that given the amount of HR issues we needed to turnaround that two leaders were better than one. So, when my boss asked me to consider if I’d hire my competition to work for me I have to say that this was excruciating. After lots of conversations with the angel and the demon on my shoulder I told myself I needed to practice what I preach. No fear. Hire people as good or better than you because that’s how you drive a business forward. Well, I confess I was far short of the no fear part, but this wimp decided to cross over the fear line by 1/2 inch and I’m better for it. I’m convinced I preserved my health and my sanity through that move. I deeply respect this individual I hired and together we knocked out some mega things. He’s honestly smarter than me with a leg up on experience in the niche industry I was in at the time, and a step ahead degree wise with a masters degree from a better school than the one I’m attending now. When I moved on to a new opportunity he of course stepped into my role and I was pretty excited for him. I keep up to follow the really cool things he continues to do at that company to this day.
Here’s the deal. The big secret about leadership is that it is really about managing and developing people. It has absolutely, positively, totally nothing to do with you. As a senior officer of a multi billion dollar company I once worked at said at one of our leadership meetings, people will cut you a lot of slack if you are a listening and humble person (that’s my summary of a brilliant speech he gave). It’s true. Great leaders are vested in the success of their people even before they sit back and think about the big I am. They are at the front lines cheering their people on. They care. Heck, they even love them. They sometimes shed tears over the wins and the losses of their people. And something magnificent happens when you experience this more tranparent side of leadership. Irony presents itself. You see, what is so ironic is that when you stop being in the game for the big “me” it suddenly means that you succeed on the level that transcends money, and you also move the needle on productivity and profits to boot. This is because you engage a very special part of your people and they start showing up to work to really give their all. Not just lip service. Not just for the bucks. They show up because they like working for you and they really want to shine for the team. You see, it is the coaches and the poets of the world that change the world and spur the masses on to achieve at higher levels than even imagined. As Henry Miller put it, “The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way.” I hope that I can be content to point the way. I always ask the people who work for me to tell me the truth, to correct me when I’m wrong, and to celebrate when THEY have wins.