Who Are Your Most Valuable Employees?

There likely exists within your leadership team a ‘mental map’ of how people within your business should be viewed. A framework that views some people as being more valuable than others, whose roles are considered vital and who are seen to contribute more to the success of the business than others. This map profoundly impacts the way in which your business operates and its performance. And in many instances leads to underperformance.


Active Knowledge Question:

Is one employee more valuable than another, and if so, why? 


What Makes Someone Valuable?

So, what makes one person more valuable than another? Is it what they are able to deliver to the bottom line, or is it something else? The profit-first motive that underpins most businesses leans us towards profit in forming views about who is valuable. However, profit-first as a motive seeds self-interest, politics and short-termism, which disperses and neutralises the competitive strength of any business.

Using profit contribution as a measure of individual value will lessen rather than increase the profit performance of a business as it creates division, suppression and control across all areas of the business. Simply, it will bring the worse out in people, especially leaders, who will want to ensure that successes and profit are attributed to their efforts, and failures and losses are someone else’s.

Every person within a business plays an important role, and each role supports others to perform their role. If one role is not performed well, then the performance of many others will be impacted.

The competitive strength of a business lies in being able to muster and bring to the forefront the combined effort and talent of everyone who works within and with that business.


The People You Must Have In Your Business

If you were to pause for a moment and jot down whom you consider to be the most valuable people in your business, and why, who would end up on that list? What is the basis upon which you would have chosen those names?

There are people who are invaluable to your business. I wouldn’t use the term ‘most valuable’ as that tends to lean into hierarchical structures which ranks importance based on that pyramid and seniority. But there are certain people that every business requires if they are ever to reach their potential.  

The people who are invaluable in your business are the ones who create the right dynamics in your business, the ones who strengthen the competitive engine of your business.

There is not just one type of person but rather a range of people who bring different traits into the people mix of your business. And their interaction with all the people who work within and with your business is what brings the best that everyone has to offer to the forefront. 

Through their presence, they strengthen and energise the competitive engine of your business. I would not pick one category of person as being more important than the other; as they all are important, and it’s their combined interactions that draw the best the business can muster to the forefront.

I would describe them as being the champions, mavericks, audacious and worthy leaders of your business. And this has nothing to do with seniority but all to do with character. Bear in mind, that it’s unlikely you will find all these traits in a single person, and that you do need these types of people throughout your business at all levels and in all parts.

The roles that each category of person play in uplifting the competitiveness and performance of your business is best described as follows:

Champions of Success

As a business leader, it is vital that you define success in your business so that it lifts the greatest capability of everyone to the forefront in enabling the business, and everyone working with it, to achieve their potential. You need champions of success throughout your business to make this a reality.

You want to grow successful people in your business at all levels, and that success should not be defined by wealth, power or position. Such a view of success limits success to a handful of people within any business and undermines competitiveness. You must establish a view and practice of success that empowers every person to bring their best to work every day. 

Successful people can have a profound effect in your business. Bearing in mind that successful people will likely exist at every level of your business, and we are not just referring to those people who have achieved leadership positions in your business. Success is far wider than that internal view.

A successful person can be a light within your business because they:

  • Do not rely on others for their identity.
  • Are open and strong and provide leadership.
  • Understand the power of words and apply them accordingly.
  • Adopt habits to reinforce their success.
  • Grow and connect with other successful people.
  • Are confident but never prideful or arrogant.

Successful people have an invaluable and critical leadership role as they:

  • Develop other people’s ability to be successful.
  • Connect people with the business’s purpose and goals at the individual, team, corporate and community level.
  • Lead by example and create a culture of success through being successful themselves.


Most successful businesses are created through the unorthodox. Their founders discover an unmet need and a way to fulfil it that delivers more value than anyone else can. Their business is seeded, grows, becomes hugely successful, and then begins to compete in the orthodox. Therein lies the start of its eventual failure.

The unorthodox, the independent thinkers, the mavericks are rare in most businesses. They are often identified and expelled quickly, as they threaten the old established ways of doing things. They undermine and disrespect the existing power structures. By their very nature, they do not feel ‘at home’ in the established ways.

But they are vital to the competitiveness of any business as they open everyone’s minds to new paths and opportunities that were never thought of or were thought impossible.

Every business needs mavericks, but they must be protected, supported and provided with the autonomy to explore, try, and fail. They will challenge and question the most sacred wisdom in the business. They can, at times, be seen as the annoying person who continuously asks ‘Why?’ Then, even when answered, they still go off and do it in their own way.

But they can be far more than just annoying, they can be the window to a business’s future. They seed discontent with the way ‘things’ have always been done and encourage others to step out and find new ways of delivering more value to customers.

Mavericks are not the people who always complain about the way things are. If something isn’t working in a manner that is best for the customer or business, they will simply correct it, rather than complaining, or asking permission to do what they know is right.

Nor do they seek to improve their position in a business and gain promotions. Typically, they like to be a free agent and work independently, rather than carry the constraints that often go with management roles. But they are leaders and will incite others to step out.

The Audacious

Every business also requires the audacious; persons who are willing to put it all on the line, to take those bold risks. Risks which can catapult your business into market positions you never thought possible. It takes a certain type of person who is willing to step over the edge, but it also requires business leaders who know what it takes to make audacious work, and to support them in their quests.

Audacious is not reckless, careless, negligent or prideful. It is thoughtful, committed and relentless. It is certainly purposeful with clear outcomes sought. It does start with ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if we could achieve this’, and then creativity kicks in to build the image of what this new future would be like.

The quest is painted, and the details will be discovered on the journey.

Audacious is not the playing field for followers. It is the domain of market leaders; businesses which have carved out space for achievers to live and thrive. They do not accept the norm, the status quo, nor a bureaucracy that stifles bold actions.

These achievers are creative at heart, leaders within their own lives and champions of success in every person whom they meet. Their energy permeates and creates a passion and enthusiasm throughout a business.

They are a unique endangered species in many businesses. Some leaders despise them as they cannot be readily drawn under their personal banners where they may steal their glory. If you do not protect them, they will simply leave and find somewhere else to flourish. 

They are their own person which is why they can be audacious and not disempowered through fear. In stepping forward, they firstly place their own reputation and prosperity on the line. They do this not for financial self-gain but for the achievement of the quest.

If a business honestly wants to grow to fill and step beyond its current potential, it needs people who are willing to be audacious.  

There will be audacious people who will travel through your business all the time. As a leader, your challenge is to create an environment which will encourage them and allow them to stay awhile. You need to understand and protect them, and you need to allow them to be who they are in their heart. 

Worthy Leaders

A worthy leader is not determined by the technical competencies they possess but by their personal strengths and weaknesses. It is the quality of character that businesses must seek in their leaders. It is the quality of character that will determine the competitive strength of the business. Failure to assess character correctly is to appoint a leader who will surely fail.

If your business had a worthy leader at its helm, it would be a business that attracted the best of the best, who all gave everything they had every day to make the business an incredible success. And it starts with you choosing your leaders upon their core character.

Leadership forms the core of a business. It is its heart and strength and provides for its continual renewal. If the heart weakens or becomes poisoned, then all the business is weakened and poisoned with it, and competitiveness fades.

If you were to work with a worthy leader, you would be working for someone who:

  • Invests themselves in uplifting you and bringing your talents to the forefront.
  • Places themselves last and seeks to serve the business and its customers first.
  • Recognises and rewards your talents.
  • Believes learning is important and creates a culture of continual learning.
  • Listens to you and your ideas.
  • Seeks to work with the best.
  • Doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
  • Takes failure in their stride and doesn’t seek to attribute blame to others.
  • Seeks to win your trust and support.
  • Has a positive attitude to life and comes to work with excitement.
  • Views everything through the lens of opportunity.
  • Gives thanks for their life.

Worthy leaders allow the champions, mavericks and the audacious to exist and thrive in a business. They uphold the competitive engine that will enable these invaluable people to do their magic engaging all others to step forward with their best every day.


The core competitive strength of any business lies in its people. They are all invaluable in the contribution they are able to make.

To identify one category of person as being more valuable than others is to weaken the competitive strength of your business. Rather you need to look to the dynamics that must exist within your business to allow it to outcompete all others in its marketplace.

And ensure the people who seed and nurture these dynamics prosper in your business at all levels and in all places; these are the invaluable people in business because of what they lead all others to do.

An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel