Hiring Dilemmas

Selecting a Team

There are many hiring dilemmas that entrepreneurs must face when staffing their new venture. Founders can be tempted to use family and friends as part of their start-ups.  Noam Wasserman’s book, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup discusses dilemmas to elements of entrepreneurship including whether or not one should hire family and friends. This is an interesting topic. Wasserman (2012) uses real life examples of start-ups that have used the “commitment” blueprint of a “family-like culture” and a “bureaucracy” blueprint for outside hires based upon skill and experience (Wasserman, p. 211, 2012). Wasserman (2012) notes that many of the family and friends were volunteers, those willing to commit time to the start-up without pay solely because they believed in the cause. Hiring family and friends mostly looks negative in light of Wasserman’s book.  However, I would argue that no venture is without its difficulties and many ventures would not get off the ground at all without support of family, friends, and interested acquaintances.  If the cause is great enough, is it worth the risk to begin with family and friends who are willing to give it their all alongside you?  I think that it is. As a Christian entrepreneur, the cause is central to me. There are those that are likeminded. The right team, whether or not they are family or friends, hired from outside sources, or volunteers, is imperative to the success of the venture. There will be obstacles to face either way.  Many of my team members for my new venture are family and friends (a vast array of people from across the country) that I have met along the way. Most of my starting positions are volunteer positions. Having traveled with other organizations for many years, I know the value of volunteers. Good volunteers are a vital part of a great team. It can and it does work.  I have witnessed it firsthand.

Keeping Top Performers

Eric Herrenkohl, in his book, How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department, discusses how to keep top performers.  You have the perfect team selected and everything is going great, how do you keep your team? Keeping top performers will help keep your venture moving in the right direction. Herrenkohl (2010) suggests some ways to keep top performers including being a strong leader. There are many different leadership theories each with styles, characteristics, and behaviors. Researching how leaders effect followers would be a starting point.

Consider Existing Research

As a doctoral student, I am working on my doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis on Christian Leadership. To assist in considering existing research, I am sharing a part of one of my recent papers from my doctoral program. The excerpt follows:

Existing research of leadership behaviors proves that leaders have a positive effect on followers’ outcomes. Organizations can utilize research to evaluate and hire the correct leaders that would be the best fit. For example, the Path-Goal Theory of Leadership has been linked to positive follower outcomes and expectancies. Directive leaders provide employees with clear and concise directions which enhances performance. Supportive leaders provide employees with understanding, promote well-being, and treat employees as equals. Participatory leaders incorporate employees within decision-making and listen to employees’ thoughts and opinions. Achievement oriented leaders show confidence in employees and provide employees with standards and challenges at a high level while seeking improvements (Hayyat Malik 2012). The Servant Leadership Theory has also produced positive results. Servant leadership provides followers with experiences that satisfy and that are positive within the work environment. Employees are encouraged to openly share ideas and to develop within the work environment (Lapointe & Vandenberghe, 2018). Transformational leadership may help employees to work within diverse groups more efficiently and to identify with organizations and to feel valued and included (Moon, 2017). Both transformational and servant leadership are linked to follower engagement in work and organizational commitment, in addition to, effecting influence and satisfaction. (Van Dierendonck, Stam, Boersma, De Windt, & Alkema, 2014). Ethical leadership contributes to positive follower outcomes and is linked to organizational citizenship behaviors (Wand & Sung, 2016). Knowing that specific leadership behaviors have certain outcomes, organizations can assess needs of followers and employ the correct leadership type. Hiring practices could target specific leadership qualities to promote the exact results organizations are looking for. In addition, leaders that are already working in organizations could be trained to learn desired leadership behaviors. Producing positive follower results is in the benefit of both leaders and organizations. Positive follower outcomes are worth the time and effort to apply the leadership style that best suits followers’ needs. (Excerpt From: Effects of Leadership Behaviors, Patricia Kay Reyna p. 4-5, 2018).

I think that Herrenkohl (2010) is on to something when he mentions strong leaders as a part of a plan to keep top performers. Thoughts?


Hayyat Malik, S. (2012). A study of relationship between leader behaviors and subordinate job expectancies: A path-goal approach. Pakistan Journal Of Commerce & Social Sciences6(2), 357-371.

Herrenkohl, Eric. How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.

Lapointe, É., & Vandenberghe, C. (2018). Examination of the relationships between servant leadership, organizational commitment, and voice and antisocial Behaviors. Journal Of Business Ethics148(1), 99-115. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-3002-9

Moon, K. (2017). The effects of diversity and transformational leadership climate on organizational citizenship behavior in the U.S. federal government: An organizational-level longitudinal study. Public Performance & Management Review40(2), 361. doi:10.1080/15309576.2016.1216002

Van Dierendonck, D., Stam, D., Boersma, P., De Windt, N., & Alkema, J. (2014). Same difference? Exploring the differential mechanisms linking servant leadership and transformational leadership to follower outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly25(3), 544-562. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.11.014

Wasserman, N. (2012). The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wang, Y., & Sung, W. (2016). Predictors of organizational citizenship behavior: Ethical leadership and workplace jealousy. Journal Of Business Ethics135(1), 117-128. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2480-5

5 thoughts on “Hiring Dilemmas”

  1. Good evening,
    Two points in your writing caught my eye. One, you plan to hire family members since they are large part of your support group and you are so right. While my wife “supported” me in my venture, it took her nearly seven years to finally say “I am proud of you”. She finally realized what WE had accomplished together. Also you mention ethical leadership. AMEN I say. Your character builds the basis of the company.

    1. Thank you for your response to by blog post. Even though one is cautioned against hiring family members, in my case we have all been through a great deal together in very difficult times and have likeminded goals that have come from the difficulties we have experienced together. Congratulations on your accomplishments that you and your wife can enjoy together! A real blessing!

  2. Kay,

    Keeping top performers is a challenge. You as a leader need to determine your a-players and take action immediately. Also, I always find it interesting to accept the challenge to turn a c-player into an a-player. I know the book says to not waste time doing so, but I have found that including all members of the team and individually learning about each person helps to create a family like environment. Rarely have I encountered a team member that can not be turned around. Good article and good luck this week!

  3. Kay,
    It was very interesting to read your take on Wasserman’s viewpoints regarding family and friends and the hiring dilemmas. I think you have a very valid argument how it takes basically ‘whatever-it-takes’ to get a startup off the ground, including family, friends, and volunteers. Given what I know so far about your project, this made me take a closer look at the approaches and views of Wasserman. When it comes to keeping A-Players around, I think we might focus significantly on recruiting and not nearly enough on what we will do with them and how to keep them around. I think it is just as important to create an environment where A-Player will feel like they can reach their full potential.

    1. Thank you for your comments to my post. Yes, in hiring family and friends one must be careful but I do believe there are also benefits. I agree with you that having an environment to keep A-players is also important.

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