CEOs are willing to jump in on almost any issue. They may not always be "experts" in the area, but they aren't afraid to speak their mind and jump in.

Call it micro-management. Call it over-caring. It doesn't matter, entrepreneurial CEOs will work a level or two below their pay grade.

When they hire or promote someone to a Vice President or C-level position, that's what they are looking for: People to have a vision and see where the business is going and how to get there. However, they also want people who will jump into the pool and save departments from drowning.

The challenge is that as people grow in responsibility and pay, they think they shouldn't be in the details as much and they should be guiding rather than doing. That's the number one disconnect. The best C- suite people are lifeguards, not heads of water safety. Heads of water safety work in buildings and administer rules and deal with legislation. Lifeguards patrol the beaches and see the real issues in real time.

The ability to think big and act small is the skill that separates the best managers from the rest. When leaders are afraid to jump in, whether it be afraid of appearing like a micro-manager or afraid of having to actually do the work. It sends a message up the ladder and down.

The best head coaches will take play-calling responsibilities back when the team isn't doing great. The best news anchors go to the front lines when it's a huge story. The top military leaders get into the minutia during conflict. The best politicians reach across the aisle and don't just talk. The same goes for business leaders.

Employees execute at the highest levels for managers who know and are willing to learn the jobs of their subordinates. Hiring people who have skills we don't have is a huge asset of great leaders. Learning what they do and how they do it builds loyalty and creates respect.

What slows companies down is fear of turnover. When leaders "need" poor performers it's because they are either:

1. Afraid of having to do the work

2. Unable to do the work

That's when things go to sh*t. The best leaders at any level are the ones who say, "I'd rather do the work than keep a bad attitude around." That is putting the good of the culture and company ahead of their own personal agenda, which really puts their personal agenda at the top because the end result of more work is career growth.

When you are interviewing to hire or promote from within, ask questions like:

1. Tell me about when you had to do the work of your staff and what was the result?

2. Tell me a time when you fired someone and you didn't have the bench strength to handle it, and had to step in and do staff-level work.

3. What part of the company did you come up through? When was the last time you did any of those jobs?

4. Tell me how you monitor and check the work of people 2-3 levels below you.

5. If you could only have a team of five employees, what role would you take on, and what quotas and expectations would you set for yourself in that staff role?

If people can take a step back and look at themselves as an employee rather than a leader, you know you have the right person. When they are so caught up in the big picture and don't know how the job should be done is when you have CEO-reporting issues.

Please realize, I'm not saying C-level people shouldn't delegate. They should. I'm not saying they shouldn't allow people to succeed and fail. They should.

I'm saying the best leaders know when they are doing those things, and for what reason. They are willing and able to jump in and execute a plan and achieve a goal. To simply say you expect people to do their job is a cop out for not wanting to do yours.

The job of a manger is to achieve, and if you don't have the team to do the job right, then you need to do it. When the CEO finds that mentality, hire it.

Published on: Dec 31, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.