The Most Important People A Business Leader Can Ever Hire

By Panos Mourdoukoutas

Of all kinds of employees business leaders hire while in office, one kind stands out: people who are prepared to tell them when they are wrong.

Classical Greek philosophers have a name for this kind of employees: haeretics, people who are prepared to question the direction of the corporate ship, see things others cannot see, and introduce new concepts and ideas that take the organization out of the box.

That’s why investors should keep a close eye on the people who surround business leaders and help them shape the business strategies which determine the long-term direction of the stock they invest in.

The trouble is that in the real business world it’s hard to hire and retain haeretics.

As a rule, business leaders like to be surrounded by senior and junior executives who tell them what they want to hear rather than voice dissenting opinions. For a good reason: people are rarely motivated to examine prevailing premises and beliefs.

As Mike Soupios puts it in The Heretic’s Handbook: A Contrarian’s Guide To Modern Life: “As a rule, societies are rarely inclined to examine their own premises. Instead, people are routinely expected, if not compelled, to endorse the prevailing system of beliefs. While this approach may appear useful in terms of maintaining cultural harmony, in truth it constitutes a serious threat to society’s general health and well-being because no society can benefit from having mechanically endorsed views serve as authoritative norms. It is imperative, therefore, that we continuously ratify our cultural premises and that skeptics and contrarians be given pride of place in the process.”

Anyone who has worked for a large organization has probably noticed that senior and junior executives routinely endorse the decisions made at the top, even if those decisions may not steer the corporate ship in the right direction. That’s the instinct of survival in the corporate world. When that happens, they end up wasting the organization’s resources.

Engineers in high technology companies, for instance, may end up working for several months or even years on projects that are no longer marketable, wasting resources and undermining the organizations performance.

Still, there are business leaders who have made it a habit to be surrounded by haeretics. Warren Buffett, for instance, invites haertics to sit in Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meetings.  Like hedge-fund manager Doug Kass a couple of years ago, who had been questioning Buffett and partner Charlie Munger about Berkshire’s business strategy.

Apparently, Warren Buffett’s strategy has been working, as evidenced by Berkshire Hathaway’s stellar performance.

Company/Index 10-year performance
Berkshire Hathaway 153.60%
SPDR S&P500 (SPY) 60.39%

Source: Finance.yahoo.com 2/2/17

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