It's been said that A-level people hire other A-level people, while B-level people hire C-level people. Presumably someone hires B-level people on accident at some point, but that's not important right now. The point is that the most important thing a leader does is evaluate his subordinates and then delegate responsibility to those best able to tackle each particular problem.

The Washington Times is posting excerpts from a new book titled "Rumsfeld's War", and the first one shows us just how much President Bush's choice for Secretary of Defense has affected the course of history.

Donald H. Rumsfeld sat in a vault-like room studded with video screens and talked with President Bush as the Pentagon burned.

"This is not a criminal action," the secretary of defense told Bush over a secure line. "This is war." ...

"That was really a breakthrough strategically and intellectually," recalls Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. "Viewing the 9/11 attacks as a war that required a war strategy was a very big thought, and a lot flowed from that."

"If you want it done right, do it yourself" is a mantra for foolish and short-sighted leaders. A capable leader may be able to complete a task better than any of his subordinates, but a wise leader will realize that while he's busy there are other tasks that aren't being done because he isn't available to oversee them. It's better to delegate and complete five tasks with 80% quality than to do all the work yourself and complete one task with 100% quality. Then again, sometimes it isn't, and a wise leader must recognize which tasks are so important that he must take them over.

As an engineer, I've learned that "good enough" is exactly that. A leader who focuses on perfection will never achieve anything and will only burn out his workers in the process. Aim for efficiency. Is it really worth spending the same amount of effort on the last 10% that you spent on the first 90%? Sometimes yes, but generally no.

The real challenge of leadership is to find high-quality people to work with and then get out of the way so they can do their job.



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