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Superior Leadership: Hire Smart

By Bob Prosen    


Puzzle piece being set in the puzzle

One of the most important aspects of being a superior leader is hiring people smarter than you.

The difference between good performance and great performance is not just having smart people, but also having the right people in the right positions.

That’s why top leaders spend more time putting the right team in place to accomplish their objectives than they spend on planning, strategizing, or many other components of their job.

Often ineffective leaders have a fear of not knowing the answer to every question.

They personally want to bring all relevant facts to the table every time. That’s not only impossible but also counterproductive.

Superior leaders hire people who can provide the answers that are pertinent to their particular area of expertise.

True leaders also know how to listen to advice and move out of the way to let others do what they do best.

Superior Leaders Hire Those Who Are Smarter Than Them

It is important to hire people who know more about their area of expertise than you do.

When you surround yourself with experts, you create a body of knowledge that’s far superior to that of one expert surrounded by worker bees.

This body of knowledge will increase the velocity of your progress and propel you more quickly toward your goal than you ever thought possible.

Did I Hire Smart?

When I meet with company leaders, I ask for a show of hands from those who hire people smarter than themselves. Many hands go up. Then I ask how they know, and lots of hands drop.

So how do you determine if you have hired the right people?

  • First, ask yourself how often the people around you recommend sound ideas that you never knew were possibilities. Does this happen once a week? Once a month? Does it ever happen?

If you’re hiring people who are smarter than you, you should be surprised with their new ideas and solutions. You should be constantly learning from them.

  • Second, in the privacy of your office, study each person in your organization who reports to you, and ask yourself, if there were no ramifications associated with the answer, would I pick this person again to be on my team and in the same position?

Caution! If you worry about what you would do if the answer is no, you will not answer the question honestly.

If you can answer often to the first question and yes, without hesitation, to the second, then you have the right person in the right job.

When you hire first-class professionals, your job will get easier and your objectives will be achieved faster, better, and more profitably.

Here’s a Secret

One of the toughest jobs for a leader is hiring someone you don’t know.

The last thing you want is to hire wrong and then have to deal with the aftermath.

Notebook with "Business Plan" written on it with a pen and calculator.

Here is a secret I use to increase the probability of making the right hiring decision: During the latter stages of the interviewing process, after my colleagues and I have met with the prospective hire several times, I ask the candidate to write a one-page action plan describing what he or she will get done the first sixty days on the job.

The next time we meet, I ask the person to present the plan.

This not only allows me to evaluate the candidate’s style, approach, and critical thinking skills, but it also gives me a ready-made performance plan by which to evaluate the person in the months to come.

If I’m hiring to fill a senior position, I ask for a three-month action plan.

Bottom Line

A true, superior leader has the ability to continually meet or exceed a company’s operating and profitability objectives.

This is the single most important job a leader has, because the ability to achieve and accelerate results and profitability often means the difference between calamity and cash flow.

But a leader cannot do this all by themselves, they need a team of smart and competent employees to help.

You may not know all the answers to every question so hire people who know what you don’t.


image of puzzle piece:
image of business plan: writemoneyinc

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2 Responses to “Superior Leadership: Hire Smart”
  1. Chris Colasono says:

    Bob, without a doubt this is the most important decision a leader can make. Evaluating and replacing current members is probably one of the hardest!Using your process is highly effective and extremely sucessful in building the right team and getting the desired results for your business. By the way, I continue to grow and apply the learnings from you Small Business Accelerator training. Thank you for your commitment to helping business leaders become winners.

  2. Jim K. says:

    Hi Bob,

    Another insight post – thanks. A couple of points I would like to raise. One, although I think it is implied, what do you do if you have inherited execs who don’t meet the criteria you identified? I had a situation where career (20+ years) execs were in place when I came in as President. I know I should have made changes but I wanted to give the execs an opportunity to step up and perform given they were held down by the previous management (dictatorial regime). When do you make these kind of decisions as an “outsider” coming into a new business?

    Second, what methods can one utilize to determine that the “super smart” you interview are not the narcissistic demons that can destroy a company? Narcissists are typically very intelligent and smart enough to game the interview process. Any insights on how to root them out in the interview process?

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