Insights for Leaders

Opportunities vs Problems

“Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.” — Jim Collins

Peter Drucker observes, “It is more productive to convert an opportunity into results than to solve a problem.”

Warren Buffet advises, “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders seize opportunities, give them ‘top priority’ status and dedicate their best people to those assignments.

Strength in Differences

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” — Stephen Covey

Dee Hock, Founder and previous CEO of Visa International recommends: “Never hire or promote in your own image.  It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness.  It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours.  It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.”

Ancient Chinese military general and philosopher, Sun Tzu, observed: “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders do not hire people in their own image — they value and pursue teammates who are aligned; but, contribute different skills and temperaments.

Job 1: Who Does What

“The key is: listen closely. Get in the candidate’s skin.”– Jack Welch

Jeff Bezos, founder of says, “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.”

Peter Drucker, when asked, “What is the most important decision an executive makes?” Answered, “Who does what.”  Retired CEO and author Larry Bossidy agrees observing, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people.  At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders understand their most important job is to have the right people in the right jobs –  they wait for the right candidate.

Leaders Create Leaders

“Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.” — Tom Peters

Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder and CEO explains, “You can’t keep your finger on the pulse of all the issues you’ll face; no one person can do everything. You need the self-esteem to hire people who are smarter than you and give them the autonomy to manage their own areas. Surround yourself with great people and get out of the way; don’t try to micromanage things as you did early on.”

The E-Myth author Michael Gerber writes, “If they don’t fail outright, most businesses fail to fully achieve their potential. That’s because the person who owns the business doesn’t truly know how to build a company that works without him or her…which is the key.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders multiply their leadership capacity by empowering other highly skilled people to lead in their area of expertise.

Iron Sharpens Iron

David Ogilvy, once known as “the creative king of the advertising world” wrote, If you ever find a man who is better than you are — hire him. If necessary, pay him more than you pay yourself. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.”

Warren Buffet understands the principle that ‘iron sharpens iron’ and advises, “It’s better to hang out with people better than you…pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders surround themselves with intelligent, talented people who help keep them on the cutting edge.


“You succeed or fail as a leader depending on the quality of the people you are able to attract and retain.”  –  Larry Bossidy

Jim Collins writes in Good to Great, “No company can grow revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company.” 

We all want the right people in the right seats on the bus; but, what do you look for when hiring?  General Colin Powell explains, “You can train a bright, willing novice in the fundamentals of your business fairly readily, but it’s a lot harder to train someone to have integrity, judgment, energy, balance and the drive to get things done.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders know that people are vital to their success and the critical qualities to identify in the selection process.