Monday Night GMAT: Analysis of an Issue

“The best strategy for managing a business, or any enterprise, is to find the most capable people and give them as much authority as possible.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement above. Support your views with reasons and or examples from your own experience, observations or reading. 

The above statement presents an interesting paradox. If your leadership style is to, indeed, find the most capable or talented people and then give them as much authority as they can handle, you may well find yourself in a position where, at best, your authority is being usurped and at worst, you find yourself in a Lord of the Flies situation where employees take as much authority as they can – leaving no one with clear decision making capabilities.

Paradox aside, in the information economy especially, companies live or die by their human capital and this means they can afford to hire only the most capable and talented people. However, the hiring of the great and the good is only half the battle; the second half is finding the best positions for them in the organization.

As Jim Collins wrote in his seminal book, Good to Great, it is not a question of simply filling the bus with the most talented people in your industry, it is a case of getting the most talented people onto the bus and in the right seats.

Employees possess varied and diverse skill sets and must be managed as such with not just talent taken into account when filling the seats on your organization’s bus but also the skill set, emotional intelligence, experience and leadership capabilities.

A star sales woman is a star saleswoman, but she may make a lousy manager. Similarly, a lousy sales woman may inspire and motivate her team in such a way that she should be promoted to a management role.

A particular worker may be the most capable in his department but looks to the big picture too much, rather than focusing on the job at hand. In this case, a less capable, but more process oriented, second employee may be needed to carefully manage the first worker to keep him on track.

It is also important to focus on the development of talent, of imparting the skills and knowledge that employees need to advance in the organisation. Such training programmes work to identify latent abilities and capabilities that have been previously dormant in employees. A employee may come to the organisation to sit in one particular seat, but find that she is best suited to another seat.

As such, ongoing development programmes and nurturing of existing talent, rather than aggressive hiring of the best talent available, can benefit organisations saving them time and money associated with recruiting external candidates and in increasing internal morale as employees are promoted up the ladder into suitable positions where they are given the tools to be successful.

While the most capable people may not be suitable for all positions of authority, the idea of a flat, non-hierarchical structure is most appealing to workers. Our capitalist society, personified by the notion of the American dream, has been built on the idea that workers will be rewarded if they work hard and succeed. This idea must be perpetuated if an organization is to keep its best, brightest and most capable.

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