The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

June 10, 2013

Do not surround yourself with mediocrity

By BOB HARPER
FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER

TARBORO — If you’re running a company, your own business or a government the worst thing you can do is to surround yourself with mediocrity.  When I was a young (age 26) General Manager I told someone that I was about to hire a man for an important position in the company.  This person advised me not to do this because the man was older than I was, had a lot of talent, and ambition and would probably be after my job.  My answer to this advice was, ‘If I’m not up to doing my job properly then I should lose it, and that I wanted to surround myself with the most talented people I could so our company could be very successful.’

The result, over the years, was that the company was very successful, as were the employees.  However, I have known of companies whose managers never wanted to hire anyone whom they thought were as smart or smarter than they were. Big mistake.  These companies were not successful and the managers lost their jobs.

I also see this problem being practiced in our national government’s leadership.

Instead of hiring and appointing the best people you can find, too often their idea seems to be to hire and appoint mediocre people.  First and foremost this administration seems to prefer loyalty over everything else.

I once had a friend tell me how much he valued loyalty over anything else.  I answered, that loyalty was important, but not more than ability and honesty.  How far do you take loyalty?  Do we take it to the point where we accept dishonesty and mediocre performance?  We shouldn’t, but it seems that is exactly what going on within the administration in Washington today.

First, we have the appointment of Susan Rice as National Security Adviser.  This is the same person who mishandled the Benghazi situation so badly.  She ignored the fact that this attack, which killed four Americans, was a well-organized military attack instead of some spontaneous response to an amateur video.

I agree with what S.C Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “Name one person who has lost their job because of Benghazi.  Susan Rice being promoted, or being chosen as National Security Adviser after her performance in Benghazi, basically is the president telling us, I’ve got no problem with what my administration did in Benghazi, misleading the American people.

Graham added, “She has a credibility problem, I think, with the average American…”  The appointment of Rice to this post does not require Senate confirmation, so it’s a done deal with no father debate.  The thing is that the performance of Susan Rice has been mediocre at best and it is accepted by the administration.  But, she is loyal.

When it comes to the performance of Attorney General Eric Holder, David Ignatius of The Daily Star writes that “…in the judgment of a wide range of legal colleagues, he has been a mediocre attorney general and his mediocrity is evident in the recent leak investigations.”

A Washington lawyer recently remarked, “Holder substitutes his political judgment for his legal judgment, and his political judgment isn’t very good.”  That criticism was agreed on by a number of leading Washington attorneys.

Attorneys William M. Welch and William W. Taylor in the National Law Journal last year wrote that “…poor management and poor supervision were obvious in Holder’s office.  Holder’s problems go all the way back to the Fast and Furious scandal last year.

That’s when the House voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to turn over documents in relation to the Fast and Furious operation.  The vote was 255-67, with 17 Democrats voting to uphold the contempt resolution, later another civil contempt resolution passed by a 258-95 margin with 21 Democrats voting for the measure. What we have now is the fact that Holder lied to Congress or misled Congress.

There doesn’t seem to be much difference between lying and misleading.  The problem seems to be that Attorney General Eric Holder is incompetent and a mediocre performer.  I think it’s getting to the point that Holder, himself, is wanting to resign, but is being held back (for now) by the President.

The real problem here seems to be having an administration that may have contempt for the rule of law and the desire to surround themselves with mediocre “Yes” men and women.  They must agree with the President and his desire to tolerate mediocre performances, and his desire to target, intimidate and silence political opponents.

I am confident that this country has an abundance of very competent men and women who would serve this nation with a high level performance that they and we can be proud of.  These men and women would serve with loyalty too.  Sure, loyal to those above them, but much more importantly loyal to the citizens of this great country.  If it comes to a choice of being loyal to the President or being loyal to the citizens, their choice should always be to be loyal to all of the citizens of this nation.

The head of a small business or a large business should always surround themselves with employees that have top-notch ability; it will serve that business well and make them look good too.  This is also true of the leaders of this country.