True leaders focus on the results achieved by team members, and their team—and the overall impact of those results on the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.
Being results and impact-focused makes it easier for true leaders to work with, and appreciate, the “wild ducks” in their organization—those often colorful folks who refuse to fly in formation because they see the world a bit differently and are not blinded by traditions and outdated policies. True leaders are not intimidated by independent thinkers who speak their minds, may be a bit non-conformist and are by nature wildly imaginative.
Although these “wild ducks” may be viewed by others as “unmanageable,” a true leader recognizes the value of those who are willing to stand on their own in a never-ending quest for their next creative break-through; those who may be a bit “quirky” and hate the mundane and routine, yet who come up with some incredible ideas.
True leaders recognize greatness when they see it, even if it comes in an odd-shaped package—and when they see it they know better than to use a heavy-handed approach to threaten these free spirits and force them to toe the line. Instead, they respectfully and subtly guide their energies in the right direction. They foster a climate of open-mindedness and the acceptance of wild ideas, aware that these passionate souls take their ideas very seriously and take unnecessary criticism very personally.
When leading one of these brightly glowing and passionate creators, a true leader is willing to give them a bit more creative freedom, to be patient and tactful with them, to give them personal credit and recognition for their efforts and ideas, to provide them with the resources they need to be successful, to work with them on the development of challenging but realistic goals and deadlines, and to run interference for them if they come under siege by others who misunderstand and malign their eccentricity and lack of political savvy.
Of course, if a wild duck becomes unreasonable, uncooperative, or grossly insensitive a true leader will put their foot down and draw a line in the sand—as there will be times when this is necessary to get them back in line. Even then, they do so with sensitivity and with respect for these brilliant contributors who at times may be a bit rough around the edges, and they do so because they’re focused on the end result as opposed to being concerned about defending their own ego when presented with challenging personalities.
As Thomas Watson, Jr., president of IBM from 1952 to 1971, said, “You can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again. One might also add that the duck who is tamed will never go anywhere anymore. We are convinced that any business needs its wild ducks. And in IBM we try not to tame them.”
Thomas Watson, Jr. was truly a wise man.