Who will you hire?

By Ron Pereira Published on March 10th, 2010

Which do you feel is more important – hard work and hustle or brains and intelligence?

In other words, if you had to choose between the following two people to run your family business… who would it be?

  • Person 1: Average intelligence but an unbelievable drive to succeed.  This person has had to work hard for everything they have ever gotten.
  • Person 2: Off the scale intelligence but an average drive to succeed.  This person has always been the smartest around and, as such, has never really had to work hard at anything in their life since most things come naturally.

What do you think?  Who will you choose to run your company?

  1. Jon Fields

    March 10, 2010 - 3:45 pm

    Person 1 without hesitation. The last person I want running my biz is some Ivy League guy who feels the world owes him a debt of gratitude. Plus I have seen many ultra-intelligent people have no idea how to solve problems since they rarely experienced them growing up or in school.

  2. Michael Lombard

    March 10, 2010 - 4:18 pm

    The red-blooded American in my says to agree with Jon Field’s previous comment. But, I know that portraying intelligent people as Ivy-League silver-spooners is inaccurate. I’ve known highly intelligent people that never even went to college, and I’ve known some Ivy-Leaguers who I didn’t think were all that smart. But that’s not the point of this discussion.

    The question is to go with smart and unmotivated or not-so-smart and hard-working. To me, good leadership boils down to the willingness and ability to continue learning. Both naturally smart people and people of average intelligence are capable of learning, so that’s not the issue. The issue is desire to keep learning.

    This is not determined by the work ethic of the person either. A hard-working guy can be stubborn and refuse to learn new tricks, as can a highly intelligent person who thinks he already has all the knowledge he needs.

  3. Christopher Hughes

    March 10, 2010 - 9:22 pm

    I suspect most people would say Person 1, but actually hire Person 2. Almost every company hires based on visible credentials like college degrees and certifications.

    It is also not clear that there is really a correct answer based on the limited amount of information that is available. If the family business depends on solving partial differential equations then the really smart person with the average motivation may still be the better choice! I chose that example just to make the point that it would be smartest to hire the person that is better suited to the task at hand. I don’t think Person 1 or Person 2 is uniformly the better choice for all situations.


  4. Abe

    March 10, 2010 - 9:47 pm

    Number 1 no matter what the business is since person 2 only has average drive.

  5. Mark Welch

    March 11, 2010 - 7:28 am

    I believe most (not all) lean thinkers would take #1 because of a drive to continuously learn and improve. #2 is more along the Jack Welch/G.E. line of thinking – it all comes down to talent.

    But, this is not completely cut and dried – just a tendency, I would think…

  6. James

    March 11, 2010 - 7:30 am

    This isn’t a slam dunk in my view – I’ve seen many “driven” people who weren’t smart enough to drive in the right direction, or know when to ease up on the gas vs. driving over people. I’ve also seen some pretty smart people be able to deliver 10x the results as the driven one, with less effort because they know how to work smart.

    I’ve also seen several PhDs (something that requires both off the charts smarts and a huge drive to succeed) fail when it came to being change leaders.

    If #2 has the right attitude, I take him hands down.

  7. Sarah Reynolds

    March 11, 2010 - 7:47 am

    I would hire person 1 since, in my opinion, hard work and drive cannot be taught. You either have this or you don’t. Sure you can “pressure” person 2 into action but this will likely not sustain itself.

    Furthermore, person 1 will likely be able to learn and grow from an academic sense while person 2 will likely feel as though their intelligence will carry them through when, in fact, it probably won’t in the long run.

  8. Robert

    March 11, 2010 - 9:12 am

    Depends on you needs.
    If you need knowledge and time is pressing, you’d chose Person 2.
    If you have time to develop your workforce and consider this as a long term investment, you’ better opt for Person 1.

  9. Garrett

    March 11, 2010 - 12:20 pm

    I would go with Person 2. I work in a company full of hard-workers. But, they lack the imagination or desire to implement change that would allow them to work smarter. I would rather have someone in charge who can see how to make things work smoother, rather than someone who pushes themselves and their employees to work harder to overcome the self-created barriers they have allowed to get in their way.

  10. Terry

    March 13, 2010 - 5:46 pm

    I would take #1 because you can use training tools to teach them why you think like you do as that is the beauty of lean. Your brain only knows how to learn and it usually does not take very long for the “lightbulb” to click on when you use a simple but effective presentation in your training. I saw this used in a mixed culture manufacturing world where english was not a strong language. Lean was embraced in a very eager way by the majority of workers and the ones who struggled saw the effects as their jobs became easier in many different ways. I have lived this journey for 15+ years and am continuing my education with a Gemba certification the Gemba LLC as I truly believe lean is the only way to run your gemba(workfloor).

  11. Narayan

    March 31, 2010 - 2:03 am

    Good post. Naturally this is a ‘either or’ question for which there is no right answer for all situations. Both intelligence and hard work may be a better choice. James has a good counter to it. I feel getting things done from others may need more intelligence than hard work. Hard work is also often associated with physical stress. Solving a difficult partial differential equation (to borrow an analogy from CSH) may also be hard work. I would list 10 factors give them a weight of importance based on the context, score each candidate I interview on these, look at a weighted score and then …. having thought through this process, discard the score card and go with my gut feeling!

  12. Mark

    April 1, 2010 - 1:11 pm

    #2 will eventually be challenged and will give up instead of pushing ahead. #1 will find a way. In my opinion, this actually makes him the smarter of the two.

  13. Jason Yip

    April 5, 2010 - 5:52 am

    #1. I can take care of the off-the-scale intelligence part… 🙂

  14. Richard

    December 20, 2010 - 1:16 pm

    I would go with Person #2. They can surround themselves with people to act on their quick wit ideas to execute on them. Person #1 sounds like they struggle to make it and like putting awesome tires on an Indy Car, if the core component, the Engine or in this case the braiin is not in tip top shape, then you are wasting your time with the investment in the tires.

    Person #1 needs to hire people like #2 to do as they say to get the job done. The smartest people are those that surround themselves with smart or efficient people. Person #1 may not know who to leverage to get to the “A” solution sets and take the company to the next level.

    Working hard in the wrong direction makes you a Lemming. Good heart, good effort doesn’t win races but it makes for a good story but stories don’t pay the bills and keep the masses employed.

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