Great Leaders Build Leaders, Not Followers

Great leaders build great leaders, not followers.

I was on a call recently with Jeff Hoffman, the founder of Priceline and the inventor of the airport kiosk, among many other successes. Something he said put words to a concept that I’ve been helping businesses implement for a long time.

Jeff Hoffman

“Great leaders build leaders, not followers.”

Jeff Hoffman

You can’t have a business led by a team of followers, you need leaders. People who have the skills to take the organization to the next level, own their responsibilities, push the organization forward, and then develop their own great leaders.

A Brittle Business

Recently, I stepped into a company to help turn it around and one of the first things I realized was that the company was brittle.

Ever eaten a Nature Valley bar? They are the epitome of brittle.

It was brittle because there was one very stressed-out person at the top running everything who had built a team of helpers, not a team of people leading and growing their departments, owning their metrics, and improving the company.

It was particularly unfortunate because the team was experienced and driven, but they were not pushed to own departments or empowered to do so. Empowerment wasn’t the problem and the former manager wasn’t opposed to empowerment, they just didn’t have the toolset to know how to raise people up to manage departments and how to hold them accountable.

How to Develop Leaders in Your Organization

Step 1: Identify the roles and responsibilities

I began with your team by identifying what people think they are doing with this email:


Can you each please send me an email that has the following information? This is anonymous and the results will not be shared with the entire team. If you have any questions feel free to schedule some time on my calendar for a call.

Please send this to me by the end of this week (Friday the 19th or sooner).

Section 1: You

  1. Your recurring weekly and monthly responsibilities. Please list this in a bullet point format with the item and what time in the month you do each thing (day or week of the month).
  2. Your ongoing responsibilities – what you would say you ‘do’ at [COMPANY NAME]?
  3. What you are responsible for at [COMPANY NAME]?
  4. What you think you should be responsible for but are not?
  5. Please name your title at the business (ie. Director of Operations). If you don’t have one, please state what you would like it to be.

Section 2: The Business

  1. In your words, what does [COMPANY NAME] do? (format as paragraph or bullet points)
  2. If we were going to grow in ways that we are not currently pursuing, what would they be?
  3. If you were going to change something at the company that you DO have the power to control, what would it be?
  4. If you were going to change something at the company that you DO NOT have the power to control, what would it be?
  5. What is the number one issue you see in the business right now?
  6. If you could make any change, how would you change your work environment?

Thank you!

Now I know what people think they are doing and what they think the company does.

Step 2: Put them into an org chart

This is a company that doesn’t have that many people, but it’s more of a puzzle than it seems because you have a limited number of people, only 5, to organize into a fairly robust (for a small business) org chart.

It looks like this:

You’ve probably noticed that the same people are on this chart in a lot of different places.

Person 2 has a whopping 12 ROLES! Of course, it was impossible to grow the business.

But don’t feel bad Person 2, lots and lots of entrepreneurs have this issue. You’re so far from being alone, and I learned how to fix it only because I used to do the same thing.

Step 3: Define Success

Now that you know who is supposed to be doing what, and assuming that you don’t need to make any hires/fires (which you sometimes do in situations like this), it’s time to start measuring success.

I recommend having a meeting with each person you’re putting into a leadership position or is already de-facto in one and asking them the following questions:

  1. If instead of [CURRENT ROLE] you had a title like [DIRECTOR OF WHATEVER DEPARTMENT] what would you think success would look like for this role?
  2. What metrics would mean success for this department?
  3. How would you measure these metrics?
  4. What systems could you implement to measure these metrics?

Very often, people are being raised up into these roles and they don’t really know what success should look like, so guiding them often needs to be a key component of the conversation. You need to be prepared with knowledge about how the department should be operating.


For example, I met with the soon-to-be head of support (he didn’t know it yet) and asked him these questions. He didn’t really know what measures should be implemented, so I gave him recommendations such as:

  • Customer satisfaction scores
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey
  • Ticket open time
  • Call response time

He jumped on these ideas quickly and was excited about being able to take control of the department.

Timeframe expectations

Getting all these metrics in place isn’t a one-quarter goal. This is more like a six-month to one-year goal for a company this size, but knowing what needs to happen is the best first step.

Now meet with all the team members, place them, and make sure they have a scorecard for success.

Building Scorecards

A lot of people have asked me what scorecards should look like, especially for development teams. I put together some of the scorecards that I’ve used in the past for you here.


Support – Customer Satisfaction:

Churn Report:

I didn’t include financial scorecards in this list because we’re looking at departments that the CEO may not be directly looking at every day. Whereas money is probably top of mind daily. I’ll do finance scorecards in another email another time.

That said, I like to have all these scorecards, especially the finance ones, on different tabs in a single Google Sheet so I can look at them wherever I am and know how all departments are operating at any time.

Talk about peace of mind in a box, this is where it’s at, and your team will love doing it because this way, they know what success is and have a goal to strive for.

Step 4: Who you’ve got and who you need

In the beginning, very often, time you don’t have enough revenue or need to hire for all places where one person is filling multiple roles. But you will need to fill these roles eventually as revenue increases.

Here’s your process for figuring out which role to fill and when:

Start with identifying the roles

In this case, we’re just looking at roles for Person #2. But you would want to do this for everyone in the entire company.

Below are the duplicate roles just for person 2 (in red):

Replace with costs for each role

Take all the duplicate roles and name the role, then list for each one how much it should cost to fill that role. In the example below, I just did this for the roles ‘Person 2’ is taking:

Person 2 is now filled with a dollar amount.

Put people, costs, and notes into a spreadsheet and prioritize

Now create a spreadsheet with each role the person fills, the estimated salary for that role, the priority (order of hiring), and any notes. Sort by priority and now you know who to hire next and how much new revenue you need for each person, and you can plug this into the costs tab of your forecast.

These are just the roles ‘Person 2’ is taking in this example.

You would need to do this for all duplicate roles in your business!

Also, sometimes the people you have are not the right fit for leadership positions, but you don’t have a choice for the short term.

Just prioritize them differently based on how important it is to remove the currently available person from the role and get a new person.

Now you know who to hire next

With your quick prioritization, you now know which role to replace first and can calculate how much new revenue you need for each new role before you can make the hire.

For each new role coming in, they will either fall into a department or take over as a department leader (manager, director, etc.) and will either add to a manager’s scorecard or take over their own.


You’re probably thinking to yourself “ok Jason, but you’re giving people more responsibilities, you need to pay them more.”

Yes and no. Right now, the company is losing money and everyone knows it. We’re not adding hours to people, just giving them different roles. If someone asks for more money we tell them that the company doesn’t have more money right now and that we need to make changes asap.

I believe that we are dealing with adults who deserve to know the truth, so I tell them something like this; If they are not comfortable with the new role, they can stay in the current role, but that may mean that we will need to terminate the role to find someone who can take the new role.

It’s a small business in an ‘At will’ work state, so we can make hiring and firing changes like this at will.

If they are comfortable with the new role and can take it on and grow into it, and the company is making enough money, we will boost their salaries up to a competitive level for that role as soon as we can.


In the current project, the first person we raised up to own a department was a project manager with some sales experience. We took him up to Director of Sales.

Within less than 2 weeks he had:

  • Implemented changes to the CRM
  • Taken over sales reporting
  • Requested and built more leads lists
  • Put together lead scraping systems
  • Begun pushing outbound sales
  • Started rebuilding sales decks
  • Put together a project plan for rebuilding our sales processes

In other words, with the right direction, empowerment, and Person #2 letting go, the sales department is in the process of being completely off of Person #2’s plate and sales are being, from her perspective, automated.

This is what she said a few days ago:

“I’m so happy.
I’m not the department of everything anymore!”

Person 2

All that from an email and a couple of meetings.

More To Building Great Leaders

There is a lot more to be said for building great leaders, but asking them how they want to lead and letting them lead is a great first step.

Jason Long‍
Owner, Founder

As owner and founder of JHMG, Jason has worn many hats over the years. Looking back even to his high-school years, Jason has always been a passionate entrepreneur at heart and a strong leader. Jason’s background in UX design, his history of starting new businesses from the ground up, and his unwavering dedication to excellence in every project he is a part of have earned him a reputation for high-quality work in all that he does. ‍

In his free time Jason enjoys traveling, swing dancing, crossfit, and hiking. ‍

Further Reading