In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins makes it clear that after you have worked on yourself to become a better leader, the next most important thing to do is get the right people around you, described as ‘first who, then what’. In other words, get the right people in your circle and then decide what it is you want to do together.
Indeed, this is one of the most critical acts a leader will undertake during their tenure. Getting it right will mean success and by the same token, getting it wrong means lower performance, such is the stark reality of the situation. Of course, most leadership appointments inherit a team. In this case, Collin’s suggests a rigorous rather than ruthless systematic change of people over time.
Peter Drucker is equally effusive regarding this topic but less positive about the successful implementation of people policies in organisations. He writes that less than one-third of leaders manage to get the right people around them for a variety of reasons, and the resulting business performance is substantially reduced because of it. He has several basic principles regarding people:
- If you put someone in a position and they do not perform, it is your fault for not being diligent enough in the first place.
- During the height of the Roman empire, soldiers had the right to a competent commander, and if that was not forthcoming, there were repercussions for the commander.
- No other executive decision in the organization is as important as decisions about people because success or failure depends on it.
Drucker was clear about making sure that any new hirer had the right core qualities, strengths and motivations needed to improve company performance. The candidate must also fully understand the situation they are getting into. To use Collin’s bus metaphor once again, knowing that maybe the direction of travel might change, and they will need to accept that.
In addition, time taken to get people with the right qualities aligned generally motivated goes away. These people on are the bus to be part of something big; to build a great organisation. This means that these people should arrive with the spirit and fire to motivate and self-direct without taking the scarce resources of the leadership team. They take their responsibility seriously.
Collins, J., 2011. Good to Great. [Place of publication not identified]: HarperCollins.
Drucker, P., 2008. Classic Drucker. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School.
Revealing the leadership secrets for a successful business
Lessons from high performing business leaders