In the movie American Snipper, Ben Reed as Chris Kyle’s father, explains to his young sons that there are three kinds of people: sheep, wolves, and sheep dogs. While simple in concept, the analogies to human instinctual behavior make a good filter for choosing leaders in your company.
Sheep are the followers and often those preyed upon by the assertive and sometimes aggressive types (wolves). Sheep dogs possess those same aggressive tendencies but through training and temperament follow a herding or protective instinct.
You probably have all three types within the organization. Sheep and wolves will be much more common. The sheep make good internal production-oriented staff. Wolves are naturally great at sales, mergers, acquisitions, and even some management positions.
But when it comes to key leadership positions, especially during times of transition or turbulence in an organization, look for the sheep dog. They will guide and motivate the sheep and moderate the wolves.
Wolves only or a combination of wolves and sheep may drive revenue up for a season, but they will never create the atmosphere where creativity and the natural high resulting from team success will flourish.
The best way to find sheep dogs is to watch existing people function in the work place or screen for them with questions to references. For example, you might ask a former teacher or employer: “How does Sally react when under pressure” or “When working in a team, what role does Sally gravitate toward.”