Steven's Blog

Leader Versus Minion Behaviors

Who on your staff is leadership material, and who is…perhaps not?

Forget personality profiling and engagement survey results. None of these tests have ever been scientifically validated, and can tell you as much about a candidate for a higher level of leadership as reading the entrails of a slaughtered chicken.

Leaders exhibit specific behaviors, as do the minions of mid-level management also-rans. Click To Tweet

I’ve listed twenty-three for each.

Behaviors of Leader Material                        Behaviors of Mid-Level Management Minions
Reports decisions made and actions taken. Seeks permission or approval from above, or otherwise waits for direction, before acting.
For each decision to be made collectively, enumerates options, risks, possible preventative and contingent actions, and makes a recommendation. Presents no options. Only argues for one way forward, or for why a way forward will not work. Backs argument with massive amounts of data.
Is able to quantify the return of any possible investment in money, at least in terms of order of magnitude—tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, etc. of dollars—and explain the rationale. When asked about magnitude of value of an investment, claims it is impossible to know for sure, and makes no attempt at an estimate.
Can explain strategy in less than three minutes, using a whiteboard (or without a whiteboard when none is handy or desired). Requires preparation time for an eighty-slide presentation.
Asserts point of view as an expert. Defends point of view preemptively with data—lots of data.
Takes questions from superiors in stride as part of a dialog. Treats questions from superiors as an oral exam.
While it is nice when possible, knows that he or she is not here to be liked. Worries about what people might think of him or her.
Holds staff accountable for behaviors and results. Blames staff for shortcomings of business results.
Fires people without compunction when appropriate. Believes firing is immoral for all but the gravest of malfeasance.
Has grasp of key financial numbers at any time without having to look up data. Has to consult data when asked about financial status of business.
Worries about impact on business owners if non-performing staff are retained. Worries about impact on how other staff will feel if non-performers are fired.
Discriminates. Treats the excellent better than the rest.


Believes equal treatment of all to be a moral imperative, or otherwise coddles the obsequious.
Stands up to HR when HR acts against the best interests of the business. Uses HR as a scapegoat.
Is disloyal. Will leave a company without compunction when there is no longer a path for personal growth. Pledges fealty while worrying about not being able to find another job should he or she quit.
Will not negotiate with gatekeepers and intermediaries. Worries about who might be offended when going direct.
Views sales as a noble profession. Always takes sales calls, even if to say, “Not interested now.” Views sales as an annoyance. Has secretary screen out sales calls.
Walks the floor. Hides behind desk feigning being busy with important matters.
Prioritizes increasing revenue. Prioritizes cutting cost.
Rarely answers mobile phone, but always returns calls promptly. Answers mobile phone frequently in case of something important, and may or may not return missed calls in a timely manner.
Decides promptly, because no decision is always the least optimal decision. Is tentative and often indecisive, because every decision is a possible misstep for one’s career.
Takes time to take care of himself or herself no matter what is going on at work. Always overworked. Self-sacrifices for the good of the business.
Has diverse interests and hobbies, and is able to converse intelligently on a wide range of topics. Is too busy for things like interests and hobbies. Puts career first.
Uses humor frequently in conversation. All business, no nonsense. Always serious.

What do you think?

What behaviors do you look for in your potential leaders?

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