How To Deal With Top-Performing Jerks

How To Deal With Top-Performing Jerks

After a recent keynote in Las Vegas, I was asked the following question:

“My husband has a manager who said, ‘I am an asshole, BUT I get things done.’ How would you deal with that?”

Leadership means embracing the responsibility that includes confronting people and problems that impede progress. Early in my management career, that wasn’t a responsibility I embraced at all. In fact, it was something I largely ignored to the detriment of myself and everyone else on the team.

I don’t like conflict or confrontation. But I can tell you what I despise even more: drama, gossip, backstabbing, hoarding, lying, selfishness, bullying, credit mongering and behavior that undermines the success of the team. So, I have come to appreciate how being radically candid and inviting healthy conflict into conversations about business performance are critical to being an effective leader.

I place a tremendous amount of value on emotional stability. Moments of change, challenge and crisis can prove to be very revealing. When someone’s default mode is “asshole,” assertive leadership is required to course-correct. As a leader, you owe it to yourself to confront negative behavior head-on. Perhaps more importantly, you owe it to your team. Culture is a reflection of how you lead.

Now, this is usually the moment where someone likes to bring up the Steve Jobs approach to leadership. I get it. I read the book. I love the brand. You aren’t Steve Jobs. Neither am I. I stand firm on my “no asshole” policy. Life is way too short.

So, the solution is simple, right? Fire the asshole. Not so fast. Suppose for a second you couldn’t. Imagine you worked for an organization like the United States government that actually prohibited you from removing the jerk in question. Now what?

Check out my response in the enclosed video from the conference Q&A:

Video: How to Deal with Top Performing Jerks — YouTube

It’s never about one. It’s always about us.

Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.