Great leaders learn to spot talent and team players from crowds

Thursday October 07 2021

Unlike blindfolding that common in lottery draws, leaders have algorithms and even scientific methods for picking out winners for their teams. PHOTO | FILE


I am no expert in horticulture but I have always loved flowers and greenery. This love has exposed me to many lessons that have proved useful to me in business and life. Let me share some lessons on weeds.A lawn looks so nice and green from a distance, after the gardener runs a lawnmower over it.

However, getting closer, you realise that not every green thing was grass, but of weeds interspersed with the grass. Nowhere has the expression not to take things at face value had more meaning to me than that lawn. Do you leave the lawn as it is or get rid of the weeds? By the time you get rid of the weeds, there is hardly any grass left as the weeds had taken over the lawn, meaning the gardener had been nurturing weeds.

To fix this, you start afresh. Even the little grass that was left must be removed, compost added and new grass planted. A very costly and painful process. What was once a beautiful lawn becomes an ugly bed of compost. However, this new state is a necessary evil to pave the way to a new, true lawn.

Emotional attachment

Leaders, too, have to deal with such weeds every day. How many organisations have been brought to their knees and destroyed from within simply because a leader had an emotional attachment to certain weeds; wrong attitudes and people who were not team players.

Various studies have identified four types of leaders in an organisation. The first is the high performer who upholds the values of the company. This is green grass all the way.


The next category neither perform nor share the values of the institution. These are 100 percent weed and should be removed immediately. The third category is made of those who are not high performers but great ambassadors of the values of the institution. This is weak grass and will require some compost in the form of training, mentoring and coaching.

Finally, the most dangerous: A high performer who does not uphold or share values of the organisation. Such leaders pose a problem to decision makers just like weeds in the garden. Do we continue mowing the lawn and keep looking from afar?

If, for the sake of mere greenness, we ignore the weeds, it is not sustainable. A day will come when the entire lawn must be destroyed. Toxicity is contagious and if not dealt with can destroy an entire organisation.

Accursed fruit tree

High performance leaders have learnt that if you have to choose between a high performer who does not share your values and a not-so-high but teachable performer who shares your values, it is always better to lean on the side of the teachable but not-so-high performer. 

Never forget that the toxicity that brings down empires always starts with one charismatic high performing person who poses as grass but in reality is a weed. Only a close look reveals the true natures.

Remember that in the Bible, even Jesus Christ cursed a tree that appeared to be laden with fruit but that he discovered at close quarters did not.If the reality does not surpass the hype, be careful. Never forget that not all that is green is grass. 

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University ( and chief transformation officer, PowerTalks; [email protected].