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The True Secret To Great Leadership and How To Do It

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Why Give a Damn:

Are you a skilled enough leader to design yourself out of a job? Read this post to learn how to steer the ship while everyone else keeps the ship moving in the direction you point them.


The author of this post, Jeff Hoffman, is a serial entrepreneur in the internet, technology, and entertainment industries. He has founded, co-founded, and been the CEO of numerous start-ups and larger companies, and has led his companies through acquisitions and public offerings (including but not limited to Priceline.com, uBid.com, CTI, and others).

No matter how smart you are, you’re not as smart as you think you are.  Tweet This Quote

I used to think that being a leader meant, well, leading. You’re the boss, you run the company. A good CEO or leader is involved in all aspects of running the company, right? I have to stay on top of all the operations and all decision-making to be a good executive. That’s how leaders roll.

Except that I was wrong.

First of all, no matter how smart you are, you’re not a smart as you think you are. You couldn’t possibly do all the things a business needs done anyway. Odds are, you’re really good at one thing and average at most others. So why cripple your company by taking on work that you are not the best at?

Think of a baseball team. Would the manager ever walk out to right field and tell the league-leading, home-run-hitting, All-Star right fielder that he needs to work on his pitching? Of course not. His job is to hit home runs and throw out runners at the plate. Someone else is the pitcher and he’s really good at it.

Hire people who are smarter than you.  Tweet This Quote

Your business is the same. You may be the boss, but you are probably only really good at playing one position. If you are a great marketer, don’t try to run Engineering, or Operations. Instead, hire people smarter than you. Then let them play.

Your real job as a leader is not to run the business yourself. Your real job is to build a team of people far more talented than you at each position, and then get out of their way. Let them do what they do best. Hand the ball to your All-Star pitcher, and go take your position in right field.

The most effective management formation is the inverted pyramid.  Tweet This Quote

In fact, the best leaders eventually realize that the most effective management formation is the inverted pyramid. The traditional (I’d really rather say “old school”) model of management is an upright pyramid, with the CEO at the top, and a wide base of employees below you. Working for you. Serving you.

But the BEST leaders work in an inverted pyramid. Instead of all your employees working for you, you work for them. It’s your job to serve them. I believe my companies were successful because we had the best team. And we had the best team because we built an environment where all the best people wanted to work.

Instead of trying to “run the company” and do everything myself, I spent my time hunting for talent, bringing them onboard, and then constantly trying to see what I could do for them to make their job the best job they ever had, and make this company the best place they ever worked.

My employees suggested I take the day off and play golf.

One day, I checked my calendar and somehow there were no appointments. My calendar was finally not completely full. So I walked down the hall to see what was going on in Product Development, and see if I could help. When I got there, the team was conducting a code review for a software product. When I walked in, they politely told me they were in the middle of a review, and maybe I should take the day off and go play golf. Slightly insulted at my dismissal, I walked down the hall to Operations. My Vice President of Operations was leading his team through an operations planning exercise. I asked if I could help. They said they had it all under control, and I should perhaps go play golf. When I walked to the Finance department, they laughed and pointed out that it would take too long to explain it all anyway.

I went back to my office, dejected. Shortly after that, my whole management team walked into my office. They asked me why I was sad. I said that I just found out that no one needed me anymore.

Instead of being sad, they said, I should be celebrating. They didn’t need me because they all knew what they were doing. They were all really good at their jobs. In fact they were so competent that everything was going well, and there were no problems.

Dream. Envision. Plan the future of the company and steer the ship.  Tweet This Quote

That day I realized something important. Your goal as a leader is to design yourself out of a job. To build a team that’s so good they don’t need you. And that doesn’t mean you have to go home or retire. It means you’re free again. To dream. To envision. To plan the future of the company and steer the ship, while everyone else is keeping the ship moving in whatever direction you point them.

So flip that pyramid over, and stop thinking everyone works for you. Stop trying to run the company, and go out and find people smarter than you in every area. And let them lead you to victory. Maybe now you’ll have time to plan that victory party.

Jeff Hoffman

About the author

Jeff is a serial entrepreneur in the internet, technology, and entertainment industries. He has founded, co-founded, and been the CEO of numerous start-ups and larger companies, and has led his...

Jeff Hoffman has written 3 articles for UNREASONABLE.is

  • GrycowskAJ17

    This was an extremely interesting article. I liked the inverted pyramid analogy. This idea of building a team that could function without you is great too. I see this idea working in allot of place other than the business world as we’ll. Duper interesting. Thanks for the article.

  • cameruca4

    The inverted pyramid seems very similar to the T-Model of business management where you hire people who are really strong in one area and then average in most other areas. By growing your depth in each area through the hiring of strong personnel you end up building a very strong company and eventually can move on to new ventures. I think both models are underutilized in the business world because leaders don’t like a hands off approach even though it may be the best way to run a business.

  • Shawn

    I agree, “Grycowska”. If we can get our swollen egos out of the way, we find that the people around us are absolutely as capable (and in some ways more capable) than we are.

    I hired a sales guy at a gym I used to manage and was totally out of my league next to him when it came to sales. I found it to be most effective to simply get out of his way and let him work his magic and even surrendered my sales training over to his leadership, while I worked on simply maintaining the rest of my responsibilities. He led us to 30% increases over last year’s numbers, all with an easy smile and a genuinely team-oriented approach.

    Interestingly, long after I’d moved on from that management job– I found out he had opened up his own small gym, and was enjoying great success! I couldn’t have been happier for him. One day I would like to walk in there and thank him for what he taught me about effective leadership! And maybe I’ll even pick up a gym membership while I’m there…

  • Michelle Spruch

    Thank you so much for sharing, Jeff! I found this article really interesting, and appreciate you sharing an organizational model that was new to me. I think the inverted pyramid sounds like it has the potential to be extremely effective, assuming that the heads of the business functions are not only great at their jobs, but also work well together and are in-line with the overarching goals of the company. Have you ever had an issue where a department focused to much on their team’s goals rather than the company’s?

  • Logan Dohmeier

    Jeff, this is a very interesting article with a perspective that really hasn’t been addressed. Before reading this I envisioned “the leader” as one who is in-charge of all sorts of operations and is the main filter through their team’s decisions. I must say I am rather convinced that the idea you propose is much more sound. It makes a lot more sense to have “the leader” be one who is good at finding the right people for a number of different jobs. This method really displays how actual teamwork should look like and how the results will only prove to be successful. If you have a team that is constructed of some of the most intelligent/efficient workers for that specific field, it seems that your business can only succeed and people will get along much better. The inverted pyramid is an interesting way of looking at leadership as a whole. More people trying to launch a business or put together the perfect team should really take this message to heart. It promotes a positive environment surrounded by the best of the best. Great article.

  • IndartoEpriladinata

    I think it is true that a good leader should support his/ her employees and
    create a good system that allows everything to go well even without the
    presence of the leader.

  • Banks

    Thanks, Jeff! This is a great reminder as we enter a season of hiring!

  • amykahl8

    Often people who are on top of the ranks let it get to their heads and think that they are the ones who are all-knowing. However, like with the baseball metaphor, a game cannot be one with just one player. For example, when a coach on a sports team has his favorite athlete, I often think, what’s the point of that? That person could not win the competition by herself. This is true with business as well. What advice would you give to bosses or coaches that let their success go to their heads or that pick a favorite employee or athlete?

  • Leija2014

    Thank you for sharing this post! I couldn’t agree with you more about letting others do what they do best and get out of their way. There are so many bosses out there that try to take on too much, and end up failing. I liked what you said about how the leader is supposed to build a team who work and help build the business with you. Because there’s no “I” in team right?

  • strakaJA01

    This article means so much to me as a management major and future student affairs professional! I mean hello! Where has this information been all my life? Right in front of me, that is where. I just needed to see/hear it again. So thank you! I completely agree with everything you said. Too many “leaders” out there want to do everything themselves and end up being facing burnout. I must admit that sometimes I find myself being a micro manager and have to step back. There is always going to be someone out there that can do something better than you can, always. If one person tries to do everything themselves, they are just holding back the group/company! My question for you is, in building this inverted pyramid that you have in your companies, what was your biggest challenge?

  • Jen McKiernan

    This is a great article. I really like how you used the baseball analogy to describe how one person cannot take on the role of the entire team. Each section of the team needs its own leader that only has to focus on that specific part in order for it to reach its full potential. I think that a lot of times pride interferes when hiring employees because the leader believes that they have to be smarter than everyone who is working for them so this article is something I think everyone should read. What is the best way to start forming your team of workers?

  • Britnee_Kay

    I am an architecture student and this is somewhat like what we are learning now. As an architect, you can’t be the best at coming up with the design, doing all the drawings, building the model and presenting to the client. It just isn’t feasible. You have to get a team together that is able to do it all cohesively. While one person may come up with the final design, it is up to the rest of the teammates to make sure that design comes across clearly and beautifully. If there is one person at the top that runs everything, they are bound the burn out at some point. It’s not possible for one person to handle it all and things to run smoothly. There is always a captain to a ship, but he’d be nothing without his crew there to keep things running.

  • tayler_schroeder

    I love the idea of this post because I think it something we often forget. Employees like to be rewarded and acknowledged so when you hire people that are smarter than you and can succeed in the things you’re not as strong at, it motivates them. If you treat your employees like they make a difference then they will!

  • natebbeard

    How do you manage designing yourself out of a job? Have you found it tough to add value as a visionary for a sustained amount of time? You still have a stake in a company and should influence the general direction, but have you ever found yourself in a type of ‘innovator’s dilemma’ where it’s hard to keep building innovative teams and products? Thanks for the post Jeff, and definitely taking it to heart!

  • milburnkatie

    This was great to read because I work at Nordstrom and our company is designed using an inverted pyramid model! I cannot share enough how much I love working for this company, and every time someone asks me why, I always tell them about the inverted pyramid model and how important it is that more companies start using this. As a salesperson, I am at the top of the pyramid because our customers work directly with us, meaning we are making business happen, so our corporate employees and CEOs need to be there to support us with everything they do, and because of this they are placed down the pyramid.

  • Jessica Andrew

    Thank you for sharing this article. I never really looked at leadership the way you did. You opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and it makes sense. It sounds weird to say that you should hire people smarter than you but I get it. Nobody has the same task they are good at. Everyone has something different that they can contribute to the business. One question that I do have for you is if you hire people smarter than you, wouldn’t you be afraid of your job security?

  • cordierm

    Really great post especially for budding leaders and entrepreneurs! This is one of the perspectives that is really rare to hear from in class but is really important. The higher up you are in your company, the further you are away from “on the ground” information, allowing those who are experiencing the changes in the business environment to adapt and challenge themselves allows a company to respond, adapt, and succeed

  • Enock Kwesi Addey

    Dead on! The baseball analogy makes the whole article a resounding one. Thank you for sharing!

  • Cory Zaeske

    I have to admit this article was not as I expected based on the title. This is very useful information with whatever ship you are controlling. If you are an entrepreneur or a hall of fame athlete who became a coach, recruit the ones better than you. You only job is to keep the ship afloat. My one question though, is when is it appropriate as the boss to intervene with your team?

  • bmdillon

    Interesting approach to leadership that we don’t usually see. I can see the value in hiring people that are smarter than you and designing to remove yourself from the equation. It is another way of saying look at others’ abilities and capitalize on what they’re good at, just like the baseball analogy. As someone who has had different leadership positions and a lot of education in the subject, a change of perspective was refreshing.

  • Alexandra Helena Marie Nicolof

    I really enjoyed reading this post. The visual of an inverted pyramid will forever remain in my mind, and I laughed at the simplicity of the baseball analogy. It really is impossible to do everything in order to make things run smoothly. I’ve
    always imagined leaders with the “old school” representation, but you’ve given me a whole new perspective. I hope that I am lucky enough to work for a company like this someday, and have brilliant coworkers by my side. Thank you for sharing.

  • Keal7685

    I really agree with the idea of hiring people smarter than you. Why would anyone even want to hire someone less qualified or “smart” for a job? That doesn’t make sense and a boss should never shy away from hiring someone better than them. I think the author did a good job of telling how a company plays out with a well qualified staff, well done!

  • greatelk

    What a cool idea to remember: to have the mindset of working for your employees rather than thinking that you should be served.

  • layj

    Wow, a great concept of leadership. The inverted pyramid; I would never think about that. A true leader shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that so many people are smarter and, simply better than them. With a great planning and a leading mind, we should then aim to be the best leader. The best leaders serve before they are served. They work their bottoms off to create a great workplace and hire the most brilliant professionals.

  • lex_alwaysMIA

    I agree but at the same time it would based upon the boss’ ego. I don’t know too many employers that would be proud enough to allow someone smarter than them to work for them. If everyone could put their egos to the side then it could occur. What I’ve seen in the workplace I doubt that anyone would work. The egos would need to be put to side and everyone should be fine.

  • Brian Tanudjaja

    I agree with your conception of leader. A leader’s job is to set a goal and vision for the company, building a great team, and direct them to reach their goal. How they use their ability to reach that goal is up to them. A leader does not need to micromanage every employee or team. When you have succeeded in creating a self-managed employee you really have reached your goal to design yourself out of a job. Great article!

  • Filitech

    Not only does the inverted pyramid structure enhance the efficiency and efficacy of a team, but it also leads to significantly less motivation and process losses. It gives the chance for individuals to prosper and utilise their talents to the max. Psychology has been having impressive effects on Economics in the last 2 decades and it is so so interesting to see the integration of these two fields. Revenues +, Motivation +, Happiness +.
    Great article Jeff!

  • AmandaBrom

    I also grew up with the similar idea of a leader. I always thought it was someone who knew the answers to the problems and told people what to do. As I have gotten older I have learned that being a leader doesn’t mean you tell people what to do. It means you help each other out and people are able to turn to you when things get hard. The inverted pyramid would be a great way to be more productive at work along with allowing people to enjoy their jobs. When you go to work and are constantly told what to do while other people watch over you, it makes you feel like you are at daycare but you get paid. It also creates division among the workers who are not as high up. This article should be something that all business owners should read or even managers. How long did it take you to find these great employees? When did you discover this great idea of leadership?

  • amandatwolf

    I really appreciate this article because I definitely agree that people need to redefine what they believe leadership entails. Leadership should really be about delegating tasks and helping people to reach their full potentials. By utilizing peoples natural talents, a leader who recognizes that can create a business that is truly self-sustaining. Leadership is about bringing the best qualities out of those you are in charge of, rather than being responsible for the whole operation individually.

  • Connor Driscoll

    This article is awesome and thank you for posting! This will be highly beneficial to my sister who plans to open her own business in the near future. She currently holds this belief that she needs to be completely in charge if the company is to take off and run effectively and efficiently. However, she needs to read this article to understand that being a true leader doesn’t mean taking charge all of the time. It means finding reliable employees who will take some of the burden off of you. By accepting a lesser role when appropriate, the business will actually be more successful. Jeff, what percentage of companies do you think actually use the inverted pyramid approach?

  • kabbasuf

    This is excellent advice. It is difficult though to break from old habits, or what society has been teaching us thus far. This is why the Presidents line about “leading from behind”, confuses many. Or is it just republicans? My question is, if you as the boss does such a wonderful job, to the point where your employees don’t really need you anymore. How do you stop them from competing against you down the line?

  • BartuchGR11

    That you for posting this blog it was really interesting. I think this blog is going to be really helpful in my life because someday when I become a boss of a company I am going to flip the pyramid over and not try to do everything myself. I do agree that flipping the pyramid would be really helpful because like mentioned in the article as a boss you are not good at everything. You have to find people who are better than you in the areas that you are weak in. That way as company you can be better and as a boss you know the job is being done right.

  • byrnesbk24

    I never thought of leadership like this. Most of the time leaders feel the need to control and find it hard to delegate task, at least that’s the experience I’ve had. i like the pyramid idea, if more “boss” types thought to work for their employees the company as a whole could be more productive. Who came up with that pyramid idea anyway?

  • hanzimm23

    I love Jeff’s view on leadership. It’s true leadership isn’t about doing it all yourself it is about building a team with everyone doing the thing they are best at. When the author states, “find people smarter than you in every area. And let them lead you to victory.” that is what it means to be a leader, not telling people what to do. I am going to take this into account the next time I think I am being a leader.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=254641687&trk=hb_tab_pro_top Taryn Loo

    I really enjoyed the quote, “no matter how smart you are, you’re not as smart as you think you are.” I am a firm believer that there is always room to grow and that everyone learns something new every day.

  • Morgan Dowd

    Wow, definitely an “inverted” view of leadership. I commend this new idea! Leadership really is putting all the strengths of employees, team members, etc. into a place they are needed and using resources (labor and physical) wisely.

  • Jessica Walker

    I like the analogy to the baseball team. Yes, we all want a boss who is on board or interested in what we are working on, but we don’t want them constantly telling us what to do when they are potentially unknowledgable about that topic. I know I get frustrated when I am trained to do my job, and someone who knows nothing about it comes up to me and tells me I am doing it wrong or I should do it in a different way. It helps to all work as a team, and if you treat the player with respect, they are going to play their little heart out. It is all about making people feel important, and needed –that is when they are interested in helping out. How much slack would you say is too much slack to give employees?

  • Amy Rink

    Thank you for making this post! I really liked how the baseball analogy! Everyone plays there own part and reading the quote, “no matter how smart you are,you’re not as smart as you think you are” it really tells people that they do have strengths and weaknesses, and with them it’s easier to work as a team to accomplish the hand at task. My only question is, when you say higher someone who is smarter than you doesn’t that become intimidating and almost make you feel that your job could be taken?

  • Palecekb

    Wow, Jeff this was a great article. I have also seen leadership as the person in charge and handling all the business. This really does open my eyes on the more important role of leadership. Would you suggest managers who feel they do all the work to seek more employees in the departments they are lacking in or talk to their boss and ask for help?

  • kristinwagner32

    This is the same question I have about hiring others who are more knowledgeable than you and if they take that position too far. What happens? If someone feels like they can run the company better than you because they are already running a part of it. However I liked the baseball analogy too because each person has a different role and when others step in without experience it will not be as successful. I totally agree that we must hire people who have more skills in an area but wouldn’t that become a problem? Thank you for the article!

  • KevinThomson32

    What I took from this article is be great and what you do. Let someone else do what they do and you do what you do. I am referring to the baseball game, everyone is skilled at something and we shouldn’t be asked to be 100% at everything, but pick something and succeed the best you can at it.

  • Tyler Steinmetz

    Thank you for sharing this article!! I love the example you give about the baseball team and how as a manager, you would not sit your best hitter and left fielder so you yourself could play that position. You know that you have your best left fielder out there and it would be ridiculous to pull that person out and place yourself in that position. The inverted triangle is a great practice too!! I have seen it in action at one of the jobs I had and it was probably the best job I have had. I think it’s great that your employees could do their job with out you and I’m glad that they saw this when you were feeling down. Because they didn’t need you that should tell you that you have done an excellent job being their boss. They know what you expect out of them and you have trained them well enough to know how to get the job done. A business should never have a power hungry boss that looks down on their employees. Do you know of any businesses that have a power hungry attitude that have been successful?

  • katie bartlein

    i enjoy how this article takes some of the stress off the boss of the company. Successful people breeds success, so by hiring people smarter than you is a great idea. It may be a bit intimidating to surround yourself with these kinds of people, but by doing so you are making yourself better. The only thing I disagree with is not being needed. Although things might of been under control at the time, or week, or whatever it may be, a boss still needs to invest his or her time into the company to fulfill all the company goals.

  • nguyenb7

    I love your article. I learn before that a good organization is one that run itself and a good leader will just focus on…well…leading, not also managing it too. But to learn about the inverted pyramid paradigm you suggested is very insightful and inspiring to me. Not to mention your own personal example of a terrific one. Thanks for the article.

  • Keeli Gilbert

    LOVED THIS! Reminds me of my mother’s business and how she always wanted to do everything on her own and burnt out really fast. By that point, she didn’t even want to wake up and face what she had to do that day. She also had a hard time saying “no” when people would ask her to do something even when it was their job. This is great for her to know that she needs to build a team that will work just as hard as she does or least want to work as hard as she does. This way, she won’t get so burnt out and is excited to go to work (even though the business is run out of our house.) Let’s be real, when you dread going to work or doing something, we will never put our best efforts into it and will half-ass everything we do that day and possibly days in the future. I know I may not know exactly how she feels or anyone else, since I don’t have my own company or anything like that, but this is how I would look at things if I did. Thanks for the article. I can’t wait to share it with the rest of my family and friends who are trying to start out.

  • weidmankl15

    This is such a great way to look at being a leader! I have had so many experiences in my life where I was always being told what to do by the leader and I was never given trust. There were so many positions and projects I had that I could have done with my 100% effort and skill, if I would have been allowed to. When you look at the fact of a leader needing to find the best people, that are smarter than you even, to create a great company or whatever situation you are in, it makes complete sense. Why hire someone that is “decent” at everything, when you can find a specific “perfect” person we could say, for each position you need. I really liked how your story created the main point in the blog. Was it hard going through the process though? No one likes to feel un-needed so I bet it took a while to get use to?

  • Kevin Weber

    Too many CEO’s want control of their companies. The fear is that not having control over the whole company will lead to failure. Having too much leadership can lead to stress, and bad decisions. I believe you make a great point by saying bosses should area people smarter than themselves to help run the company. No one is good at everything. You have to do what you’re best at, and let others do what they are best at. One big key to your inverted pyramid would be the fact that it can be completed with minimal hassle, Also, I agree that it is the boss’s job to steer the company, and plan for the future. This will lessen the burden on the boss. My question for you is, how often to you see the inverted pyramid used in business?.. Thanks for the post!

  • lamt5

    What a great way to look at what being a leader means. This article stresses the important fact that being a good leader isn’t someone who bosses their employees around, instead the ideal “boss” is someone who allows the talent they’ve acquired to do exactly the job they were hired for.

  • chrinsmas

    I’ve been working on many team projects in college. I often found out that most people who want to be a team leader does not have leadership, but enjoy controlling people(because they think that they are smart) or talking a plan (no desire to execute the plan). I understand that It is very hard to plan a broad goal, but not to give specific directions to people how it’s supposed to get it done. That “let-them-do” skill is not just coming from thin air, but by hiring smart people, smarter than ‘I, oneself’.

  • mhansen11

    Thank you very much for this article. I liked a lot how you talked about growing your company or team to become stronger in the aspects of what they do. Getting to be a successful anything requires having people who know what they are doing so having people focus on that one thing is important and then they can be good at that. The one thing I would question here would be I would hope that there is a good balance between your leadership too. In softball for example, we have our leaders yes but they never let it show too much that they are above the rest of us and I think that is very important in being successful.
    Thank you again!

  • katie yanke

    Thanks Jeff this article was great! I really like how the CEO or manager trusts his or hers employees to do their jobs that they hired to do. At every job I have had the manager will always try to cut in and tell me how to do my job when I could do it faster than they could. I would be nice to work for people who trust you to do your job. Thanks!

  • caoam

    This article gives many advice for managers and entrepreneurs. Plus, employees will work harder if they feels that their talents are being respected and they have valuable to the company they work. Knowing how to communicate with employees is also a skill.

  • nornesa

    Jeff has confidence and lots of it because that’s what
    it takes to hire people starter than you are, build great team then step out of
    the way to let them do their jobs. A
    simple concept with innumerable rewards.

  • ohtanim

    Your point of a leader that serves his or her employees by addressing the needs of the employees, providing a quality work environment, and overall truly cares for employees is a leader that in the will have loyal employees that want to serve and work for their leader.

  • Hairong Zheng

    I am really looking forward to work with this kind of leaders, which is described in this post, because they are trying to understand, looking for advantages and willing to help their employees. It is a really important view for management levels of all business to understand nowadays. If I can work with a organization with this kind of leader,I am just afraid of not having enough ability to work with such good leaders. Thank you for your great post!

  • jsuuu

    I like the idea of designing myself out of the job. I have met some of the business owner in a foreign school, sometime they think they know everything which makes it hard for his team to work efficiently.

  • Caitlin Snyder

    For some people, leadership comes naturally. But for most, leadership is something we must work for. I can relate this article on the level that I am about to be a senior on a sports team and I know I need to put their needs in front of mine. Being a leader means being selfless as well as strong. I really enjoyed this article and I learned a lot about being a good leader. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jane Park

    We recently learned about the difference between leaders and managers in my organizational behavior class, and at first, I had a difficult time deciphering the difference between the two. But your article truly lays it out, Jeff; as a great leader, one should recruit/empower great people to accomplish things without being supervised at all times and have more time to create a greater vision for his/her company.

  • nvuong

    This is going to be hard for me because I am a control freak. I need to have my fingers in all of my pies, or I don’t feel comfortable with the way they are cooking.

  • turbo_frey

    Thank you Jeff for this very thoughtful article that would greatly benefit many around the world. It is true that people in leadership positions often feel the need to run every aspect of a business, or even a project. However, like you said, leaders do not need to run the show, but instead need to sit back and watch the masterpiece they have created transform. It is important to let others play their own roles in situations so that they too can learn how to be a good leader among others. When a leader learns to bestow more tasks upon others, he or she will also be more confident when they decide to leave the business or project in the hands of someone else someday. My question is, isn’t it still important for the leader to still assess his or her teammates every once in a great while to remain informed about what’s going on around him or her?

  • Keiichi

    Everyone has different strong points regarding to own characteristic for their work. We do not have to be a perfect person, just we need to have one strong point to support companies.

  • Ryan Repta

    This an interesting point of view, and I absolutely agree with it. Working for someone who acts as if everyone works for him/her can make employees nervous and possibly unable to work to his/her full potential. Creating the mindset that you work for/with your employees can make them feel more comfortable, and create an overall more positive working environment. Have you ever been the type of boss who has tried to do everything?

  • linhvu1411

    Thank you for a great advice. Its important for the leader not only know where to lead his fellows to, but also makes his fellows want to follow. Creating an healthy and open environment is critical.

  • duongh1

    I agree with the article. A CEO does not have to know everything that needs to know about marketing, engineering or operations. I think a good CEO needs to be a visionary, knows how to communicate and inspire people.

  • Josh Pritchard

    First of all, I agree, great article. Wasn’t expecting what I read but it was really good. It was interesting to hear about leadership in a way that I haven’t heard of before. For example, hiring people more intelligent than you. I would have never thought to do that. But why would a boss hire someone smarter than himself? Wouldn’t they be afraid of the new guy taking his job?

  • Frank_Stanek

    I have to say that I do agree with this article. Leading by example is an old saying but still one that has multiple meanings. That is that if you are going to be the guy/girl leading the charge by relying on the talents of those around you then the people who look up to you can see that this is okay and even encouraged and can follow suite. Leading can be a very hard role to take on but it really doesn’t have to be a solo experience.

  • tjbaumeister08

    Thank you for sharing this. As an HR major, I have learned that employees want to feel that their contribution to the company is being valued. Providing them with the work environment where they are working with you instead of for you will make them feel appreciated. In return, you will get really hard and loyal workers. Have you ever followed the traditional model of management, and if so, what made you change to the inverted pyramid?

  • lepkowskjj29

    I totally agree. I know I myself like working for companies that I know give me more responsibilities to do as an employee to show me that I am more valuable to the company.

  • ZakFritz

    This makes me excited to work. It makes me want to strive to this because then I know I am doing things right. I do not think I will ever get to be this good but if I can get close it will be great!

  • jack lomax

    I’m soon entering a position where I will be a leader and this is a great formula I could take into the workforce. I was worried that I would have to juggle everything, but if you have the resources there in your staff, why put that pressure on yourself, when you have a great team that (if you are a good enough leader) will have your back and help you out. It is extremely important to lead by example and have that role in which people can look to you for help, but as a leader don’t be afraid to look back for that help.

  • jkailing

    I really agree with this article. I think that CEOs of
    company’s that think they have to do so much themselves are actually hurting
    the company more than they are helping it.
    Even if you are the CEO of a company there is no way that you can be the
    best at every position available, there are other people that you work with
    that know more about a subject then you do. I think that sometimes people that
    are high up in business think that they have to control everything because they
    have the power to; I think that’s the wrong way to approach the situation. I
    think that this article really dose a good job telling people why leading doesn’t
    always mean controlling every aspect, it just means to make sure that
    everything is running smoothly.

  • Drew Cox

    Don’t you love when you get inspired to go out and get stuff down from a few words of inspiration. The feeling of accomplishment when your not cutting corners is much more enjoyable. We can only strive to be the best we can! Like all of your grandma’s say anything you put your mind to you can succeed in! Good luck zak!

  • Caitlin Donohue

    Great article! I love your quote “hire people who are smarter than you.” Great advice. You might as well hire people who are smarter, think in different ways and can think in ways you don’t necessarily do. I also really like what you say about “To dream. To envision. To plan the future of the company and steer the ship.” How nice would that be to train everyone accordingly so you can take time off and know there will be smooth sailing during your short absence. How long did it take you to train your team accordingly?

  • GraceFelion

    This is a really interesting way to think about leadership. I really like it. If I ever find myself in such a position of power, I hope that I remember this article. I don’t know if I would like not really having anything to do though because I really like to be involved. How do you deal with that feeling?

  • Marian326

    Jeff, thank you! Thank you for putting this concept out there for the young people coming up the ranks to a leadership position. As an older adult that has served as chair on large committees, this is how I approach my positions. I remind the people I serve that I do not have to have my hand in every aspect of the project, I do need to be kept in the loop. When someone tells me they will take care of something, I have confidence in my ability to pick the right people, to know that they will carry out the task. I firmly believe that the first step to being a leader is to be a servant. Robert K. Greenleaf in a excerpt from The Servant Leader says “the servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first…”
    Thank you again!

  • http://parisinmadison.blogspot.com/ Amanda O.

    Mr. Hoffman, I am in total agreement with you. True leadership is the ability to lead in an environment where it allows growth and creativity of the entire company/team. This applies to not only in a working environment, but also in our everyday life. Teamwork occurs in a family setting too. This is very helpful. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the read!! So true hire people smarter than you because not everyone has same things you might be good at. Good advice to use at my future job that i could put to full force in the real world.

  • Leahrebout

    I agree completely thanks for sharing! Everybody’s got their strengths and weaknesses, and to build a good company why wouldn’t you want a team full of just strengths? Hiring people smarter than you is a great concept because everyone thinks differently and may come about things a different way so having a supply of great ideas would be ideal to all business owners. How long did it take you to get the perfect team together for your business?

  • reuhl42

    I totally agree with this article. There are many people that believe that their ideas are the only ones that can work and that they’re the best ideas out there when like the article said you should be focused on your strong point instead of taking positions your not as strong in. There are many different types of people in the world and each one of us are stronger in different topics. CEO’s also will have employees more willing to work for them when they show them respect and let them give their input in on things just so that they know what they say does matter. It would also be a good feeling as a CEO to know that your company isn’t always heavily relying on you to do everything because that can put a lot of stress on you. The one question that I have is how far can you let your employees ideas go before you step in and lean them more back towards your ideas? Thank you for this article.

  • Steven Bichler

    I love the relations to sports in the beginning because it totally relates to your point and definitely helped me understand your point better, and has slightly changed my view. I always thought of a boss of a company as the captain of the ship, but the part you said about hiring people who are better than you really connected and will help me in the future, thanks!

  • Tkachukme11

    While I was reading this article, it instantly connected me to my senior year of high school basketball. The team I was on ended up winning the state championship that year. I had awesome girls surrounding me on the team which is why we were so successful. We all had the ability to score and play great defense. However, looking back at it all, my coach said my role was being the captain and making sure that I was steering the ship. At times I wanted to be the top scorer, but then I realized that they looked to me for final decisions and to connect everyone on the court. I felt a lot of comparison in this article so I want to thank you for that. It doesn’t matter if you do all the work, but that you have others who are the best at it to help you accomplish success as well. The only thing I can slightly criticize is that they all need to be team oriented people. If it is someone who is the best at marketing but does not working with others or working under others, that could stir up some problems. So as a boss, would you right away tell them this is how things are going to work and that you are the captain but expect top performance out of them?

  • PKroening

    Thanks for sharing this article! It really makes me want to go out and strive in something I love to do. Also, the way you tied sports into it was brilliant. As for me though it would be really tough to not be involved in everything. Also, some workers are people who like to know their leader very well and actually want to be on a relationship basis. What do you think is something someone could do to balance that out?

  • Evan Hibbs

    Jeff, thanks for the article. I agree that when a team becomes so good they don’t need a voice always telling them what to do. To relate it to sports, I think the coach of the year in any sport should almost always be a coach who coaches a very average .500 team depending on their players and expectations. When a team has talent those players tend to have more desire, talent, and a better work ethic. The best managers of people are those who take individuals who don’t love something and make them love it. Your workers are talented and love what they do. Have you ever had a team of people who didn’t know what they were doing and you had to have much more of a leadership role?

  • Matthew Gust

    Thank you Mr. Hoffman for this great article. I found this to be very insightful. I am currently reading the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. I must say this article is very similar in some ways with parts of this book. One of the Laws that Maxwell calls is the Law of Addition. I find this to be a lot like your article. More likely than not you are not going to be an expert in every field of your organization or company. Leaders add value by bringing in people that are smarter and that can fill the voids or gaps in your weaknesses. I have heard a saying before that says a leader is only as strong as its followers. It is the efforts of the other people that will add value to you as a leader. Do you have any experiences of doing this Mr. Hoffman?

  • Jessica Mendoza

    I think this is a really interesting way to think about leader ship too! I have not had much experience being in such a high position of power, but if I am, I would hope to remember this too. I love the quote “hire people who are smarter than you.” That is really great advice that I would hope to remember. Hiring people who are smarter than you would only help in the long run.

  • kolinjk29

    Thank you for this great article Mr. Hoffman. I really agree with the article in that everyone has really good strengths and weaknesses in many different aspects. Having a vision and sharing it with others to help it grow is a great idea because other people may have ideas that can strengthen and make it run more successfully. When you have more people in that field individuals can combine their ideas to eliminate gaps in that company.

  • kalscheuar30

    This article is awesome. From my experience with bosses, they all think they’re all that and a bag of chips. This shows maturity and wisdom that employees are important to the success of the company, not just that the boss is God’s gift to earth. Did you end up going golfing or not?

  • Max Rude

    Thanks for the topic. I really in joy the idea a group thinking to spawn more and better ideas out of your original idea. I try to live be the quote “no matter how smart you are, you,re not as smart as you think you are” The smartest man in the world can understand when he is wrong. If everyone did acted this way we would have a much smother future.

  • Branden Unger

    This is a great article! I really agree with the idea that using a wide range of people with unique ideas, abilities, and specialties to achieve a common goal such as a running a business. The idea of letting people play their own specialized positions instead of trying to either do it for them or telling them how to play the position seems to be a very effective way of accomplishing your goals.

  • Taylor Schulz

    I agree. I think this gives great advice. I also think that a good CEO needs to know how to communicate well so that he or she can get their thoughts across to diverse groups of people. It is not all about the operation and marketing side. A great leader needs to be more than just brains.

  • masterdan55

    I also liked the article and agree with max. You may think your the smartest person, but more often than not there is always someone smarter than you. Getting many different insights from people can help bring up great ideas. Also by allowing people to shine in what they are good is better than forcing them to do something they have no skill in.

  • Trevor Boyle

    I can really relate to this article and its so true. You cant run a business all on your own just like a head coach cant run a football team all by him/herself. Our head football coach here at uw-whitewater runs our team just like this pyramid model. He surround himself with other coaches better then him in certain ares such as defense, offense, specials teams, and by positions. He put is trust in them to handle the things he is not so good at while he runs the team and makes sure we are at all our appearances and handles the press and things like that. Clearly this type of managing works because we have the most successful football programs in all of division three athletics I believe that you cant always be the one to take control of everything because you want it done your way. By doing so you overshadow others opinions that may actually be better then your own. Clearly this worked for you and your company do you feel its hard to really swallow your pride and trust others to do things the right way?

  • Sara Neumann

    This article is really inspiring. I love how you mention that if you are a leader of a business you can’t run the business on your own. You need a team of good or even better employees who will collaborate together to make the business successful. What are you most fond of when leading?

  • Katie Ackerman

    It is good to know that employees are in fact important to the way a company functions, some times it certainly doesn’t feel that way. I hope to some day work in a place where being a team is crucial to succeed. Collaboration is key. I have heard that in many of these unreasonable blogs. “Dream. Envision. Plan the future of the company and steer the ship.” That’s awesome advice. Is that how you see yourself in the work place?

  • Katie Ackerman

    Do you agree that leaders are only as strong as their followers? I think that is a valid point, but may not apply to every company.

  • Matthew Gust

    It may not apply to every company, but I believe a leader on its own cannot take the entire load. A leader has to empower their followers. An example of this is Henry Ford. Most people know how he was the famous for his Model T. What gets lost in that story is that Ford lacked an ability to empower others. In 1914 Ford was producing 50% of all automobiles in the United States. By 1931 it had gone down to 28%. The decrease was due because Ford refused to change or improve his Model T. He undermined the other leaders in his company. Now obviously Ford is a very successful company, but what it wasn’t until his son Henry Ford II took over that the Ford Company continued to grow. Like you said it may not apply to every company, but a good strong leader understands the individuals around them and realizes what strengths they can bring to the table, and then finds a way to use them.

  • thangha

    I love the sentence hire people who are smarter than you. To be a leader, of course we have to have some intelligence. But well leader cannot run the company by himself. He need a smart team of employees who can make his business become better.

  • Alivia Holman

    I
    agree with the article because if you do the job you are good at and have the
    help of others around you, you are more likely to succeed. Just like the
    baseball example volleyball is the same way with certain positions and having a
    good line up that works together to get the job done. Being the best you can be
    and doing the best you can to help others around you do their jobs the best
    they can be will have an impact on any situation. A leader in any sense is not
    about controlling every situation but building a relationship with others to
    reach the same goal. Do you ever get worried about over-thinking a situation
    that can have a negative toll on the outcome?

  • Collin Smith

    I like this article. It really breaks down leadership and what the duties consist of. A leader is a head hunter. A leader’s job is to gather a group and keep the group together for accomplishing the wanted outcome. Don’t worry about running everything and making every decision. The role of a leader is to be the glue that sticks everyone together.

  • Kendra Larson

    I really enjoyed this article. It reminded me of the TV show “Under Cover Boss”. I don’t know if you have ever seen the show before, but the owner of a company goes under cover and spends a few days working as an employee at his company, and they get a piece of what the employee’s have to deal with everyday. It’s really interesting because they usually are not very good at actually doing the job. I think that all owner’s should do something like this. It helps them figure out what they can do to make the company better and helps them better connect with their employee’s. If you ever get a chance, you should watch the show! Thank you for sharing this article.

  • Tammy Hartmann

    Jeff, I agree completely about associating investors with customers. Customers + Investors = PEOPLE. It can be time-consuming, and requires extra effort—but is all worth it!

    Jeff, thank you so much for writing such a useful article! Your advice is truly helpful.

  • masterdan55

    I agree with you colin. You have a spot on definition of what a leader is. Seems like if you were put in a situation where you had to take charge you would be calm and collected and lead just right. Sweet post! Thank you.

  • Daniel John

    I really enjoyed reading this article, thank you for the post. I inspire to be a teacher/ coach some day and I will use these ideas to become a better leader. I liked the first quote about being smarter than you think you are. That is important because knowledge is power and I believe these go hand in hand with success. What would you suggest for someone that wants to take charge but is overpowered by another individual? Thanks again for the post, I have to teach a 30 minute class today and this article was very helpful.

  • Collin Smith

    Without boasting or tooting my own horn, I was a captain of my teams and now I coach. I like to think of myself as a leader, but do not get too caught up in the titles. Have you ever been in a situation like this?

  • ghilonipt09

    I like the way you put it Collin. A leader is someone who just guides people to what the task at hand is for that day. Great example with the “glue sticks everyone together.” The real leaders are the individuals getting the task done in a timely manner. I have been in a situation like this coaching where you guide all your players to perform a task and figure out something pretty tough. This is what builds a true team. Having someone take charge on the team and have them be so called the “leader”.

  • Collin Smith

    A leader is just a glorified car sales-person. Keeping morale up should be the first and total responsibility, followed closely by achieving the goal. You mentioned you were in a situation similar to this, do you care to elaborate?

  • Tim Rutkowski

    I agree with you too Dan, I think that we as educators set the example of what the students should strive for in life. We give them the knowledge and as it is said many times, knowledge is power.

  • Slepicka12

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. Some day I will use your ideas to become the leader that i know i can be.

  • Slepicka12

    I agree with you completely about the break down of leadership in this article. And i like what you said about the leader being the glue that holds everyone together. Being in the leadership role that is very important.

  • Emmanuel

    woow!! very educating, Thanks for the free Knowledge

  • Camillewuensch

    Love love this article! I’m a manager at McDonald’s and at a tanning salon and I know how if feels to be running around all the time and trying to do all of the positions instead of managing. This article made me see that with hiring the right people I don’t have to constantly be busy and always having so much work to do when I go in. This article made we really think about how I need to change the way I manage at my jobs. This really put into prescriptive that when you have the best team you could, your job is very stress free.

  • Kelly Martin

    This article so motivating and completely true. More leaders should use this article to run their teams. The fact that leaders physically cannot do everything that needs to be done means that there are many times where trusting your employees comes into play. They may be the hardest part for people to do who are leading a group of employees or teammates, but trust must be done. Hiring the right people for the right positions will really help your business thrive. That is a wonderful concept and so simple.

  • yencheskcj27

    Great picture of Leadership in this article. Too often management tries to take on every aspect of the organization; and, to their harm, get burnt out from work overload. Instead what they should be doing is to build, manage, and give guidance to teams of people who are skilled in their specific area. I also think it was great that managers need to get out of the team’s way. Managers need to focus on a supporting role for their teams. I think one of the most important characteristics for management is their ability to coach and support others. Just by simply telling others how you want the job done leaves no room for their personal growth in their position. If we instead allow the employees to find an efficient solution on their own, or with our support, they will grow in responsibility and the company will benefit from potential new solutions to old problems. I also think your line about the goals of leaders hit the nail on the head, “to design yourself out of a job. To build a team that’s so good they don’t need you.”This quote has stuck with me, and I plan on using it in my future career.

  • Charles Fischer

    I have to agree that this is a great overall picture of leadership, I have run into a lot of supervisors who start out trying to empower the staff, but after a while their Ego kicks in and starts to try and put their spin on what we are doing. I have always tried to train my staff to take over my job and help them to get promoted or to find a position that fills their needs and skills.

  • Matthew Manley-Browne

    Thank you Jeff for your post!
    I agree with you that it’s important not to try and feel that you have to control every aspect of your business. In fact, if you tried to do that, you might as well just be running a one man business with zero employees. At college I am in a leadership position organizing tasks for people to do, and I often feel like I should be standing over people telling them how to do their job instead of giving them the opportunity to actually do it. One question that I have is whether or not maintaining a great deal of control over your employees significantly hinders your business and how productive you are.

  • Kent Miehe

    Thank you for your insight! I agree that you can’t do things alone and that team work makes the dream work. There’s also a difference between a good leader and having good leadership. Can you still have good leadership by taking control of the group and taking charge?

  • Garrett Nelson

    That you for the great advice! Having leadership skills and characteristics is one thing, but to legitimately develop and control a company in such a way where there are no problems is something I’m sure most people can only dream of. I like the example with the All-Star baseball player, telling him what his duties are, not to pitch but to hit home runs and field in his specified position. I think this is completely true with any company or business. (Which is how businesses in professional sports work) The idea of an inverted pyramid is great, as the CEO/boss should be working for their own employees rather than vice versa. This would seem to help a company develop a healthy and positive environment. A question for the author, how do you determine and find the right people for a company that will make leadership roles so easy? Not everyone would fit the company perfectly, right? So what techniques do you use to find the right “fit” with people looking to a part of the company?

  • knapprl17

    I think is a great example of how to be a leader. I hope to be a soccer coach in the future and I want my players to feel as though they have a say in how the team is run and make sure they feel like they have a voice. I want to pick assistant coaches that have strengths in areas where I might not be as strong so we can have a team that works well together.

  • ryanhaberer

    I love this article, I think this is exactly what a leader is. Some one that is a great leader, only leads by example. When you lead by example the people that follow you will learn to act like you and will no longer be dependent on you.

  • Glassborow

    Thank you for this article, I think the definition of a leader is exactly what you have written, although whether the majority of leaders are true of this definition is another question. It’s about making sure everyone can work together, everyone is heard and everyone knows what they are doing. I would say I am not the type of person to be a leader, but I do know what I excel in and enjoy and I believe I could help people in areas I am strong in. I think this article is great for people wanting to own their own business or company. Do you believe leaders are born or developed?

  • sgawinski

    It’s amazing what we can do when we put our ego aside and realize that we can learn something new everyday! When we have open minds and the desire to learn, no matter who it’s from, we are all winning. People who think they know everything or don’t want to listen to what anyone else has to say (whether they agree or not) are deflating and very bad for a business in my opinion!

  • Jack Delabar

    I agree with your democratic coaching style to and extent and also hiring coaches that can pick up where you may be lacking. Being a leader sometimes makes you as a coach have to make some difficult decisions and not always be the “nice guy” for the sake of the team.

  • Brad Vogel

    This is the kind of attitude I carry as a future Physical Education Teacher and Coach. I know I don’t know everything, but I’m not an idiot either. I can lead you, but I can’t promise you that I can teach you everything you need to know. Some things, life will have to teach you. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. That’s why there are teams and assistant coaches.

  • karinaz10

    I love when you say, “Hire people who are smarter than you.” I think this is a great quality in a leader. Knowing that they simply don’t know everything. By surrounding yourself with intelligent others, you are able to learn from them and them from you and this is overall is beneficial.

  • Theresa Fitzsimmons

    Thank you for sharing this. I wish any manager and business owner, and top people in companies should read this. I am currently a student and last year I worked at a dining hall as a manager. It was tough having to be the only one out of all of the employees closing that was supposed to know how to do every job there. We were low staffed and poorly trained. The other students I closed with were wonderful. They didn’t care that I wasn’t able to do most of the jobs. I made students do jobs that they were really good at and we all made a good team. As manager I only used that role when needed and I was able to guide us so that we could have a nice and easy close. I couldn’t agree with this advice more and I will use it when I enter the career world. How do you feel useful when you have nothing to do?

  • James

    This makes a lot more sense than the traditional pyramid with the CEO at the type. I enjoyed the baseball reference it put it into an easy way to visualize. My question is how do you find these people? Not the every answer of find a hard worker, that should be a given. What personalty qualities do you look for while looking at them? Or even better are there little tricks that you have picked up on? I read about a CEO on how he conducted meal interviews. That if the person being interviewed put salt on the food before they even tried it then he felt they weren’t open minded enough for his company.

  • Natasha Tynczuk

    Great article. I love the baseball example used, and I wish every manager/boss understood it. The only way to have a successful business is to hire people who are intelligent and know their stuff, even if they are smarter than you. By training them well, they will eventually need you less and less, which will give you more time to improve other aspects of the business.

  • mankobj22

    There was one line that really spoke to me and it was in the beginning of your article; “Your real job is to build a team of people far more talented than you at each position”. This is so important. No matter how great you are as a leader, you can’t possibly do everything and you can’t do everything as great as experts in a particular field. You need to surround yourself with talented people and if you can find those who are more talented than you, hold on to them. Tightly. This approach takes a certain kind of humility and humbleness, but it will lead to great success.