Herding Tigers | Todd Henry

Summary of: Herding Tigers: Master the Transition from Maker to Manager
By: Todd Henry


In ‘Herding Tigers: Master the Transition from Maker to Manager’, Todd Henry uncovers the challenges of leading creative teams and the key strategies for their success. The book provides valuable insights into the nuances of creative professionals and debunks common stereotypes while offering practical advice on cultivating the right environment for their growth. Readers can expect to learn effective ways to communicate and manage creative people, instill stability, set clear expectations, and navigate the delicate balance between providing freedom and accountability. Henry also touches upon the importance of developing leadership principles and fostering objectivity, coaching, fostering a healthy culture, and dealing with conflict.

Leading Creative Minds

Leading creative people is not an easy task; it’s like herding tigers that can’t be controlled like pets. Skilled creative individuals need specific, strategic leadership to achieve their full potential. Many leaders struggle to lead creatives, especially former peers, without a clear strategy. The most valuable team members are those who can shape chaos into form and value. Strong leaders empower their teams to achieve their goals by tactfully managing egos and insecurities, managing subjective expectations, and cultivating the right mindset through positive rituals.

Debunking Stereotypes of Creative Employees

The idea that creative employees lack business skills, are unreliable, and want complete freedom are common stereotypes that are far from the truth. Creative employees are results-driven professionals, logical thinkers, and crave stability through boundaries. By defining clear expectations and values, and allowing them to take creative risks, creative employees can thrive in a stable environment. It’s important to pay attention to their behavior and treat them with respect to unleash their full potential.

Effective leadership for creative professionals

If you’ve recently assumed a leadership role in a creative field, resist the urge to micromanage your team’s work. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. Your primary role is to balance your team’s creative demands with those of your managers. While most of your time should be spent managing your team, taking on a project of your own can keep you relevant as an expert in your field. Prioritize your team’s success by setting clear deadlines, defining goals, developing a strategy, and providing individual motivation. When assessing your team’s progress, consider their work pace, engagement and enthusiasm levels, communication efficiency, and emotional security. Avoid prioritizing finishing projects under budget or pleasing clients over your team’s well-being, which would ultimately lead to destroying your team along the way. By following these guidelines, you can maintain effective leadership while fostering a positive and innovative work environment that benefits the individual team members, the project outcomes, and the company’s overarching mission.

Nurturing Creative Talent

To effectively manage creative employees, leaders should prioritize caring for their team, set broad guidelines, and lead by setting principles that celebrate desirable behaviors. Leaders must avoid being overly controlling and provide creative talent with autonomy while holding them accountable and considering the impact of new developments on their work. Incorporating these approaches will help attract and retain skilled talent in the long term.

Objectivity in Leadership

Leaders must establish healthy boundaries to maintain objectivity and cultivate creativity among team members.

Leaders who want their team to recognize their objectivity need to establish healthy boundaries to prevent potential conflicts of interest. If you have been promoted and now manage your former peers, it is important to create a healthy distance in the workplace. While it is okay to maintain friendships, allowing friends to hang around your office and make small talk may lead to accusations of favoritism.

To cultivate objectivity as a leader, avoid being a “people pleaser” and instead speak truthfully and with empathy. You should steer clear of gossip and stick to your values. Be responsive when receiving feedback from your team members, as you want to create a safe space where they feel comfortable being honest. Finally, avoid making empty threats or hoarding information.

Leaders must identify their team members’ unique strengths. To do this, they must take on a coaching role, helping their creative staff identify what jobs they excel at the most. Creative jobs are usually categorized into three types: builders who enjoy creating new things, fixers who like analyzing problems and providing solutions, and optimizers who can improve on existing work. Leaders should allow their team members to experiment with work outside their job descriptions to help them grow. By explaining decisions and helping identify self-limiting beliefs, leaders can ensure that their team members feel supported and valued.

Cultivating Strong Organizational Culture

A company’s culture should not be forced, but rather flow organically to be strong and authentic. To achieve a healthy culture, identify and eliminate underlying cognitions that hinder the team from reaching its full potential. Avoid rewarding negative behavior but rather promote consistent positive actions. Focus on listing objectives and track progress on a whiteboard to help measure success. Solicit input from team members but retain the authority to make the final decision. To achieve success, an act of bravery is required; you must learn to say no to many things to give full attention to one idea.

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