How would you like to be in the position to create the largest army that the world has ever seen (over 13 million soldiers) and do it mainly with people who have NEVER commanded troops in their life?
That was exactly the position General George C. Marshall found himself in during World War II. Not only did he have to assemble this incredible army, but he also had to do it in the shortest amount of time possible. He appointed over 600 people to positions of general officer or division commander, with few “slackers.”
So, what was his secret to being so successful in putting the right people in the right positions? Smart leaders hire people based on their strengths – what the person can do, not what they can’t do.
For example, General Marshall’s aides were worried about him putting a certain colonel, who was known for not getting along with his superiors and being terribly rude, in charge of training. They told Marshall, “If things go wrong and he has to testify in front of Congress, he will be a disaster for you and your reputation.” General Marshall asked his aides, “What is his assignment … what do we need him for?”
They responded, “To train troops – an entire division.” Marshall then asked, “Is he a first-rate trainer?” His aides responded, “Yes sir, General. He is the best we have.”
He said, “Well, give him the assignment. The rest is my job.” THE REST IS MY JOB. What a great statement. Sometimes a good leader will have to protect, and even defend, some of their subordinates who may have some rough edges when it comes to diplomatically communicating with other bosses or departments. These leaders know they have a high achiever, a real winner, when it comes to getting the
job done, and they will do everything they can to protect their asset.
Who would you rather have in a position: 1) the most polite communicator who ruffles no feathers; challenges no person, policy or procedure and has an average performance rating, or 2) a highly focused, determined, loyal, “tells it like it is – good or bad” leader who occasionally upsets those who hindered their progress and is known for always getting the job done? Give me #2 any day – the rest is my job to keep the peace.
Leadership is not about authority. If you are taking the position because it gives you power, supremacy or authority over people, please do not apply. It is a servant position. You are there to help others succeed. It isn’t about you; it’s about them. Hire others for their strengths and let them at it. Learn about the man who created the largest army in the history of the world and who understood we are graded on results … The rest was his job.
Geoff Smart is chairman and founder of ghSMART. Geoff is co-author, with his colleague Randy Street, of the New York Times best-selling book Who: A Method For Hiring and the author of the #1 Wall Street Journal best seller Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) Into Government. Geoff co-created the Topgrading brand of talent management. He is the founder of two 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations. SMARTKids Leadership Program™ provides 10 years of leadership tutoring, and the Leaders Initiative™ seeks to deploy society’s greatest leaders into government. Geoff earned a B.A. in economics with honors from Northwestern University and a master’s and doctorate in psychology from Claremont Graduate University.