I couldn’t stop writing this when I came across an article on ‘brilliant jerks’ few days before on internet. This term was coined by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, sometime in 2009. And Cliff Oxford, founder of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs, defined brilliant jerks as they are “specialized, high-producing performers. They are not, however, brilliant business people, and that is what companies need during periods of rapid growth.”
I personally came across this type of personalities quite often in my professional life. The first encounter was sometime in 2007, in Bombay. This person came in to head technology with a profound background. An IIT grad, worked a decade in USA where he spent half of it with Microsoft and another half with another tech giant. Back in India, he completed his IIM-A education, and joined us to head the technology where I was working.
A complete powerhouse when it comes to work, but he was the poorest people manager I came across in my life so far. He even goes to the extent of calling a team lead who was lying in hospital and waiting for a surgery, and yelled at him for a petty issue that happened a week before. This is just an example, but the point is how to manage these brilliant jerks effectively.
I don’t know how the management dealt with the person I was talking about, but it became challenging to me when I started managing teams and I used to get this sort of jerks within the team. Few tricks worked – like allowing them to work from home, talking to them personally, but the best one is to give them enough space. Space in terms of giving authority and power to make decisions, and proper delegation coupled with this, made miracles! The so-called ‘brilliant jerks’ are no doubt super-powers, but it’s also important for the top-line executives to pay attention to the culture, and make the best use of brilliant jerks!