Leaders are paid to develop the best talent



In the above interview Tom Peters said something very powerful:

"If you are a boss you are not paid to be the best salesman, the best accountant or what have you. You are paid to develop the best salesman, the best accountant which we know in sports and the movies. Nobody said that the director is supposed to be the best actor. The director is paid to be able to deal with these crazy personalities that they typically bring in."

So the key word in Peters’ quote is to develop. There are two stories that immediately come to mind for me with a leader putting up with crazy personalities and developing their superior talent.

One is Duke Ellington, the jazz composer and big band leader, who tolerated alcoholic, difficult musicians. Ellington would masterfully lead his band for fifty years because he was able to develop his highly talented, albeit quirky, team members. Here I discussed Ellington’s toleration of Juan Tizol the trickster trombonist and how he developed trumpeter Clark Terry.

The second story is with Walt Disney. Disney attracted the best animation talent, tolerated their quirks and developed them. Bill Tytla is considered by almost everyone to be Disney’s top animator of all time. Tytla was described as doing “things in a way nobody else had ever done, and he really was the one who showed the world how strong and powerful the feelings and emotions of cartoon characters could be.” Bill was famous for having animated the dwarfs ‘Doc’ and ‘Grumpy’ in Snow White, ‘Stromboli’ in Pinocchio, ‘Dumbo’ and the devil ‘Chernabog’ in Fantasia.

Bill had the technical abilities of animation with the emotional sensibilities. The book The Disney Villain said, “Everything was ‘feelings’ with Bill. Whatever he animated had the inner feelings of his characters expressed through very strong acting. He did not just get inside Stromboli, he was Stromboli and he lived that part.” Bill was imposing, rash and temperamental often being rude directly towards Walt Disney. Other animators couldn’t understand why Walt Disney tolerated such behavior, but like Ellington, Walt had a larger vision. He said, “I’m happy to tolerate the rudeness - I get Stromboli out of it!”

Walt Disney also developed Bill Tytla by proper leadership. While creating Stromboli’s scenes in Pinocchio, Bill got acclaim from everyone. They said nothing else was needed. However, when Bill took the animation scenes to Walt Disney, Disney was not fully satisfied. Disney said, “That was a helluva scene, but if anyone else had animated I would have passed it. But I expected something different from Bill!”

Tytla was depressed. Tytla said:

“I was crushed. But one day I took up my pencil and started to draw again differently. It was as if something hit me and I started all over again. This time Walt said ‘Great! Just what I was expecting!’ He never explained what was wrong. It was as if by some magic way you would know.”

Below is the scene with Stromboli and notice the range of emotions in the character.

Walt Disney led Bill Tytla to new heights creating one of the best animators of the century.

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Bill Tytla - Wikipedia

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