There are a lot of things that a leader can get wrong, but not many can cause as much damage as hiring poorly.
New leaders, young and old, sometimes make the mistake of hiring people who they believe to be weaker than themselves. Some leaders are afraid that by hiring someone equally as strong as they are, their personal worth and value will somehow be diminished. Some are afraid that if someone on their team is a star, that person will eventually take their job–or worse, take their boss’s job.
These same leaders try to be the “keeper of all knowledge” and “the holder of all relationships.” Knowledge is power; if your team doesn’t how to do anything well enough to do it on their own, you are never uneccesary. If your people never have relationships within the organization, there is no risk of anyone learning just how good they really are, and your position is safe. So thinks the weak leader.
A leader’s performance is the sum total of the result of his team. The weaker the team, the poorer the results. By hiring weak people who don’t threaten his power, the weak leader assures that he is the indispensable man. But he also assures that his results are less than they should be, that he creates dependents, that his people are viewed poorly, that he deprives people of meaningful work, and that his team eventually grows to resent him.
A strong leader hires people who are as strong or stronger than she is. She finds people with runway to join her team so she can build them up, creating the future generations of leaders. She gives them ever-increasing responsibility and opportunity for growth, helping them to perform at the highest level and giving meaning to their work. She makes sure to praise their work to others, knowing that this recognition will help them now and later. She may have high expectations, and from time to time she might be tough on them, but no one will ever say that she didn’t expect their best work, that they didn’t grow when they worked for her, or that she didn’t care about them.
Great leaders hire strong. Weak leaders hire weak.