Leader Or Saboteur? Insecurity, Selfishness & Russian Dolls

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications,Music Business,Worship Leading

Russian Dolls To Illustrate David Ogilvy Quote On HiringVisitors to my office at Sojourn Church often notice my Russian Dolls — a series of five wooden dolls in the image of Russian leaders that fit inside each other, beginning with Lenin and ending with Boris Yeltsin. Friends gave these to my parents as a souvenir from Russia, and my parents let me take them. When office guests ask me about them, I recite a story I read about the legendary advertising Creative Director David Ogilvy (one of the real-life inspirations for the Don Draper character on Mad Men).

Whenever Ogilvy opened a new office for Ogilvy & Mather or hired a new ad man, he’d give the new hire a set of Russian dolls and ask him to remove the top half of each doll in turn, revealing the smaller doll until all dolls had been opened and the employee arrived at the last, tiny doll.

Then Ogilvy, in his characteristically insightful but insensitive and politically incorrect way, would say “If each of us hires people smaller than ourselves, we shall become a company of midgets. But if each of us hires people bigger than ourselves, we shall become a company of giants.”

Insecure leaders hire people “smaller” than they are — those who seem to have so much less skill, drive, education, knowledge or fitness than the leader that they will never catch up. Think of:

  • The band leader who won’t give a chance to a musician or vocalist of equal or greater talent
  • The pastor who is concerned that a seminary graduate might become a better preacher if hired and mentored
  • The writer who won’t mentor anyone who could possibly achieve greater success.
This goes deeper than insecurity. It is selfish, and it is an act of organizational sabotage. If you’re in a position to teach, mentor, lead or guide others, don’t be a saboteur. Be the proverbial teacher whose student stands upon his shoulders.

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