|This depends upon whether your manager is the kind of leader who gives his employees the freedom to do what they want, or if he gives his employees the freedom to do what he wants. The best way to figure out what he is actually saying is to look at his past actions. |
Overly controlling managers have a history that demonstrates their need to have everything done their way. If your manager has carved such a path, then it is apparent that his superficially empowering words are actually telling you to hire the applicant he prefers. If you go ahead and hire the applicant that you prefer, there is an increased likelihood that your manager will make it more difficult for you and for your new hire to succeed.
At the same time, if your manager has established a culture of trust and respect, then you should listen to him, look carefully at both applicants, and hire the individual whom you believe has the greater likelihood to succeed. In either scenario, make sure your manager understands the rationale behind your decision. And if you work for an overly controlling manager, you should try to understand your own rationale for doing so.