Great Leaders Surround Themselves With Great People!

One way to determine a leaders competence as well as their confidence is to look at the people around them.

A leader who surrounds themselves with people less talented than themselves is typically one who is afraid to be shown up, so they would rather look good and fail, than risking someone looking better than themselves and succeeding.

For example, if the leader hires a marketing person who knows less about marketing then themselves, what did they really get out of this person? If they hire a finance person who struggles with finance, this again is a sign of a leader lacking in self esteem and afraid to risk looking bad.

A top leader realizes they don’t need to know everything about marketing, rather they need to hire someone who knows everything (or as close to everything as possible) about marketing. Rather than knowing everything there is to know about finance, they go out and hire an expert in that field instead.

The weak leader would rather do everything him or herself (and usually let EVERYONE know it) than risk bringing in others who are as good or better at the specific task and risk look expendable.

The strong leader knows that if they surround themselves with experts in the various fields, it only makes themselves look better.

The weak leader thinks if they surround themselves with experts, it will make them look dumber.

I remember reading a quote from a long time ago which said “a genius is a person who surrounds himself with people smarter than himself”. For years I thought the quote was from Andrew Carnegie but now I can’t find where it’s from. Regardless of whom it’s from, it’s a great definition of brilliant leadership.

Obviously there are some times when it will prove difficult to do this such as when you are on a very limited budget or when you are “the expert” in a field. Even when there are budgetary limitations, there might be ways to work around them. For example, if you are looking to hire an Accounts Receivables manager but don’t have a lot of money in the budget for this position, your options might be to hire a less qualified person to do the job or to look at an incentive program that would allow you to bring in a more qualified and capable person with the agreement this person would get a percentage of the collections over a predetermined amount. The thinking here would be you have $40,000 budgeted for this position, you could pay $40,000 to hire someone with the thinking they will collect $300,000 or you could hire a more experienced person with the agreement they will make $40,000 base salary plus a certain percentage of all collections over $300,000 for the year.

The willingness to surround yourself with talented people is a sure sign you are willing to be an effective leader. How many times do you hear excuses such as “that person would never work for us”, or “we could never afford someone like that” when the reality is, no effort is made to see if there is a way to make things work.

Take a chance, surround yourself with the best you can and see how much more effective your organization can be.

Have a great day!
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4 Replies to “Great Leaders Surround Themselves With Great People!”

  1. Excellent points. So how do you go about leading people who are smarter than you? What sources can you recommend?

  2. The thing to understand is it’s not that the people you are leading are necesarily smarter than you rather, that they are smarter than you in a specific field. The head of finance should know more about finance than you. The head of marketing should know more about marketing than you.

    this doesn’t mean the marketing person is smarter than you (although he/she might be), just that they know more about their field than you.

    The other thing is to realize, people don’t give you an IQ test before determining whether you are an effective leader. The majority of the people are looking to be lead, steup up and do it!


  3. The words you’ve quoted are in fact by Andrew Carnegie, but they were a suggestion he made about his epitaph, which he wanted to read “Here lies a man who surrounded himself by people far cleverer than him.”


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