Choosing between loyalty and brilliance

ONE of the enduring challenges facing leaders is how to ensure they have the right people around them to achieve their vision.

Some leaders emphasise loyalty over brilliance when choosing their teams, while others prefer talent.

Authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, supported by findings of a research involving 10000 respondents (subordinates), found that the most effective leaders surrounded themselves with the right people to create top-performing teams.

Yet leaders who emphasised loyalty over brilliance were doomed to fail in the long term as their weak teams foundered without achieving desired results.

To illustrate the point, the authors quote former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who believed leaders had to distinguish between loyalty and brilliance.

"Most leaders prefer loyalty over brilliance; they're afraid they're going to be undercut," said Peres.

The authors conclude that those leaders who surrounded themselves with similar personalities "will always be at a disadvantage ... to those who are secure enough in themselves to enlist partners with complementary strengths".

This imperative resonates throughout the book as the authors espouse the importance of leaders not only knowing their own strengths but selecting members of their teams according to their complementary talents.

Using a few successful business leaders as a case study, the book explores their strengths and impact on their subordinates and the companies they lead.

The authors followed up on the critical issue of leadership by asking the respondents why they followed the most important leaders in their lives. Of course, these were leaders who had shaped their lives or nations.

The two tapped into the work by scientists attached to US research group Gallup, who had examined data on leadership gathered over 30 years.

The results form the basis of the book, revealing that to be the most effective leader, individuals must know their strengths, invest in their subordinate's strengths and get people with the right strengths in their teams.

The authors conclude that the best leaders live on through their legacies long after they have departed.

This is because of the way they not only shaped the thoughts and beliefs of nations but also altered the course of individuals.

Like all books on leadership, Strengthsbased Leadership provides illuminating insights into this inexhaustible topic.

It's likely some luminaries on the subject might find some aspects of the book all too familiar.