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Talent hates control: the Leader’s dilemma

Nice example of how to lead talent in an episode couple of nights ago of the TV series Bones, about a female pathologist. In this episode Bones has a new boss, also female, and clashes with her throughout the episode. Bones decides she has to quit, reluctantly. She loves her job, but cannot take being told what to do. She is a genius at what she does. The new boss can see what’s coming and wants to find a way they can work together. The conversation goes like this, at a table in a diner:

Bones: “We have a problem…I have a problem with control and authority.”

New Boss: “Can you see a way out of it?”

B: “No. (Seems to be preparing to offer her resignation).”

NB: “Look: I’m in charge. But, out of respect for you…Do you play Monopoly?”

B: (Frowns, puzzled). “Y-e-s”.

NB: “Well, in Monopoly they have that thing called a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Like I said, I’m in charge, but out of respect for you, you have permission to defy me. No consequences.”

B: “How many can I have?”

NB: “One a week.”

B: “Five per case.”

NB: “Three per case.”

B: “Done.”

They shake hands.

Lesson? Creative talent often has a problem with authority. A creative leadership response is to flex where necessary. Good leaders break rules and give others leeway to do so too. Creativity and rule-breaking go together.

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