View Full Version : Question of the week: Soldier or Leader?
01-24-2011, 10:00 AM
In this weeks Q & A we go back to the hiring well to ask the question: If you could only hire one employee, would you hire a “soldier” or a “leader”?
Which trait do you prefer in your employees? The ability to follow orders like a soldier, or perform with the initiative of a leader? I do realize some traits are better than others in certain situations, but in this case you can only hire one.
01-24-2011, 11:53 AM
I want a soldier who is a leader. The project teams I'm building now need people who can think on their own and bring ideas to the table. They also need to know that when a consensus is reached (or handed down from on high) it's time to get the work done. I expect nothing less from myself. When my partner calls and needs help I don't whine and say "but Mike I have to run the company I'm the leader." Instead, I ask what needs doing and do it. He wouldn't ask unless he was overloaded. As we get bigger perhaps this won't always work but for now it is.
01-24-2011, 12:14 PM
Joe, if you've only got one choice, you definitely want to hire a leader and manage the way that military leaders do...with commander's intent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commander%27s_intent). An old professor at Boston University in the management school once told me that what makes the difference between an effective employee and a star is the ability to make decisions independently and solve problems with confidence on the fly. A solider will always be waiting for that next order, so it requires you do to double duty and forces you to manage what you're doing, plus what they are doing. In a small team, you often don't have time for that. Hire a leader, give them a goal and arm them with the values and behaviors you want to see them exhibit and then let them execute their way.
Btw, The Heath Brothers wrote an excellent write up on the power of Commander's Intent in their book "Made To Stick". An absolutely invaluable read for marketers.
01-24-2011, 02:49 PM
Completely agree... many hire soldiers because they evaluate their business' needs as resources to "get things done." What is often overlooked is the guidance and time it takes to direct them, taking even more time away from the leaders. But the true test becomes evaluating true leadership, because a true lead is both.
01-31-2011, 10:54 PM
I say a leader too because as a small business owner I have enough to manage myself let alone worrying about what to have someone else do. I need them to say I can do this, this and this and I'll have it done by x.
02-11-2011, 06:34 PM
For the record, most soldiers I knew when I was in WERE leaders! The inherent problem with this question is, good leaders are also good soldiers, and good soldiers have met the first requirement to become good leaders.
I prefer soldiers who have leadership qualities, but re-reading the question, the spirit is "The ability to follow orders like a soldier, or perform with the initiative of a leader?".
With only a single hire, I'd have to go with perform with the initiative of a leader. Good leaders lean on mentors, and so my overall vision wouldn't be lost, yet I would have an employee with some initiative, and wouldn't have to micro manage. We have so many small things to deal with lately, that micro managing takes just as long as doing it yourself.
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