Leadership & Snakes–A recipe for getting bit

There is an old joke/fable that many of you have probably heard… it goes something like this:

One day a manager was scouring the countryside for a solid candidate, but striking out everywhere. The lions were too lazy, the elephants ate too much, the monkeys wouldn’t sit still. Those damned eagles always wanted to be in charge. This manager, beaten and depressed, dropped down and sat in the middle of a field, head in his hands.

A few minutes into his pity party (c’mon, we’ve all been there), he heard a hissing, and looked next to his foot… it was a 6-foot rattlesnake! “Hey, there,” said the snake. “I hear you need help. Just hire me, and all your troubles will be over. I’m crafty, pretty fast, and not trying to climb any ladders.”

Desert Snake close-up portrait
Desert Snake close-up portrait

“Wait a minute…” said the manager, “… you’re a snake! I’ll have to check your references first.” So, the manager contacted people whom the snake had been with before, and sure enough, “You don’t have a very good reputation,” said the manager. “They all say that hiring you will just come back to bite me.”

“C’mon,” said the snake. “Those people are just disgruntled, and maybe even a little jealous. Trust your gut — you need me.”

So, the manager finally acquiesced and hired the snake, who turned out to be a super employee. The manager began thinking he nearly misjudged, and that the references were misguided. Then one day, of course, the snake simply slithered up alongside and bit the manager on the leg.

“WHAT???” cried the manager… “You promised that if I would just give you a chance, this wouldn’t happen!”

“Yes, I did,” said the snake, “but you knew I was a snake when you hired me.”

Now, the real joke is much longer (stretched out for dramatic effect), but you get the idea. In this war for competitive, competent talent, it’s easy to ignore our instincts and available proof, and succumb to the belief that, “maybe they’ll work out after all.”

Just like with mutual funds, “Past performance does not guarantee future results.” But it’s all you’ve got. If something looks too good to be true, or you are convinced through judgment, history, or instinct that it’s wrong… run away from it.

It’s not worth the snakebite later.

Be Brazen.



  1. says

    Love this! We know we should be patient and never settle when we are looking for competent talent. Yet we sometimes feel pressure (real or imagined) to get someone hired. Beware of the snake!

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