Why Snipers Are the Worst Role Models for Leaders

Leaders need to be willing to jump into the fray.

In the military, snipers are cool—if they’re on your side. That’s why they make so many movies about them. They’re highly-trained loners. They have an air of mystery about them. They operate quietly, in the shadows, swinging the military advantage over to our side. They are admired. But they’re also a bit feared.

Snipers are really poor role models in business.

Business is about building and creating something special out of nothing. It takes time to put quality products and quality teams together, working with a winning strategy. If you’re going to be a business leader, you have to get involved and stay involved in all of the nitty gritty details that eventually will give your company a competitive advantage, sending you to the top.

Snipers operate exactly opposite of the way a winning leader operates.

They stay at a distance. They don’t mix and mingle. They’re certainly not actively involved in the action because it’s their stealth that gives them their advantage. They want to stay clean. They want to stay above the fray. Snipers are not competing to create something positive and special; they’re out to destroy. That’s why the sniper approach can’t win in business.

Losing leaders unfortunately adopt the wrong model. 

Without realizing it, they operate a lot like snipers—or critics. Critics are like snipers, occasionally firing a bullet into the mix, attacking targets who can’t fire back. They want to stay hidden so no one can shoot back at them. They don’t want to come out of their big offices and get involved with the people actually doing the work. They want to stay hidden, running their businesses by remote control. That’s something a good leader should never do.

Losing leaders look for shortcuts—for the one magic bullet or the one special target that will make all of the other work go away.

The result is: they get beaten time and time again because they’ve got the wrong model. The sniper/critic model is terrible when you’re building.

Winning leaders are the exact opposite of snipers. They get out on the field. Get dirty. Get hit, and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They coach rather than criticize from a distance. They keep on fighting alongside the rest of the team until they build something special. That’s the model that wins.

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