Each moment in history is a fleeting time, precious and unique. But some stand out as moments of beginning, in which courses are set that shape decades or centuries. --Richard Nixon

Three Types Of Employees And Leaders

First Posted: May 30, 2015, 11:40 p.m. CST
Last Updated: June 25, 2015, 5:19 p.m. CST

By Brehnen Keilin Wong

If you are running an organization, whether you are a startup, a small brick-and-mortar company, or a large corporation, you’ll find this break down and analysis of how to find the best people for your organization useful.

First you have to ask yourself what kind of employee you are looking for. There are three types of employees: grunts, leaders, and megalomaniacs. Most organizations will, all other things being equal, most likely wish to have leaders on their team, but it really just depends on your short, medium, and long-term goals. For example, if your organization will most likely stay the same size, then you may want an employee that doesn’t have aspirations to attain a middle-management position. In this case, you will wish to screen out managers and megalomaniacs, as after some time they will become dissatisfied with the stagnation that their career is seeing. However, if you have middle-management positions, or will have them in the future, you will want to hire leaders, because the amount of time invested in training them will pay dividends if they are later able to train others. Anyone who does not wish to move up within the organization is not a replicable strategy.

A useful but difficult distinction to make is between leaders and megalomaniacs. A leader is someone who is able to manage and set an example, but humble enough to know his position and limitations. If there is unlimited upward potential for your employees, then you may have room for big egos, but if your organization is like most companies, a certain amount of humility is needed in almost all employees. Some “leaders” who are unable to feel a strong enough sense of ownership within a huge bureaucratic organization often leave to start their own businesses so that they can feel more in control. This is something to look out for, in case time is invested in training such individuals, only to have the investment cut short. You want an individual that will stay with the company long enough to lead and manage the organization on “autopilot”, so that upper management will have to micromanage as little as possible, thus allowing things to run smoothly and efficiently. On the other hand, if no time needs to be invested in training and knowledge transfer to such “leaders”, then it may be worth it to hire them, let them hit the ground running, and see immediate returns from their leadership, even if their time horizon isn’t as long as it is for lifers; this is a rare situation.

Now that we’ve defined the types of employees that may or may not be a good fit within your specific organization, the next question is how to find these quality employees. There are three possible strategies: promoting from within, the shotgun method, and using a recruiting agency. I advise against using the shotgun method purely for statistical reasons. When you promote from within your organization, you get first-hand experience with and direct knowledge about the employee. When you use a recruiting agency, the agency often filters out potentially bad placements. These headhunters compile data for and have centralized information about your prospective candidates, and there is no bigger waste than ignoring data that contributes to information about conditional probabilities that can be extremely useful in determining the true nature of the applicants in question. Only the shotgun method ignores all conditional probability by neglecting to factor in information about the candidate except what is answered during an interview question and answer session. Many applicants rehearse and practice such questions by researching the questions online, and, although this is a good indication that the applicant has done his or her homework, this can give a biased view of the applicant’s true personality. However, it is often easy to detect such rehearsed answers by listening to the applicant’s tone, and an interesting technique is to ask questions not found in “typical interview questions” online by making up your own, which can be both creative and fun, in addition to being useful.

To be more clear about the types of employees to look for in terms of organizational structure, there are three types: task processors, team players, and team builders. Task processors simply perform the tasks they are asked to perform, and this is reflected by the verbiage on their resume. They focus on what they did and less on the big picture, overall goals, purpose, and project objectives of their previous or current employers. Team players are individuals that work well within the team that they are given, regardless of who it is. It may not be the perfect team for them, but they can still manage to get things done, even given the circumstances. Team builders are leaders who have experience building and shaping the perfect team for them. This can be a good quality to look for in a manager if he or she is to have recruitment responsibilities. However, this may be a bad litmus test for team players because they may not have been tried and tested at working with the team that is given to them, instead choosing to “cheat” their circumstances by placing themselves within the perfect organizational atmosphere. This is obviously a good leadership strategy for someone running their own organization, but if they do not have control over human resources, this can be a disadvantage.

There isn’t just one answer for which individuals to place within your organization. It really just depends on your time horizon, goals, and strategies. Task processors, team players, and team builders can all be useful at different times of your company’s evolution, and within different parts of your organization’s hierarchy. The important thing is knowing under what circumstances which type is desirable, and how to screen and recognize each type.

This article was written by Brehnen Wong.

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