The one-sentence summary

A handful of clever star performers create disproportionate amounts of value for organisations, but they must be managed particularly astutely.


  • You need a particularly astute approach to leading smart, creative people
  • Research shows that a handful of star performers create disproportionate amounts of value for their organisations. They aren’t free agents who do this on their own – they need their organisation’s commercial and financial resources to fulfil their potential.
  • These invaluable individuals are called clevers – they can be brilliant, difficult and sometimes even dangerous, and success may well depend on how well they are lead, which is a nightmare in itself. Traditional leadership approaches won’t be effective. Instead, bosses need to:
    • Tell them what to do – not how to do it
    • Earn their respect with expertise – not a job title
    • Provide ‘organised space’ for their creativity
    • Sense their needs and keep them motivated
    • Shelter them from administrative and political distractions (‘organisational rain’)
    • Connect them with clever peers
    • Convince them the company can help them succeed


  • They identify value rationality – a logic of goals and ends that occur when a company has an aspirational cause. This is an interdependence of equals.
  • Getting the approach right works for individuals, teams, and even whole companies – clevers attract more clevers
  • Their characteristics are: their cleverness is central to their identity; their skills are not easily replicated; they know their worth; they ask difficult questions; they are organisationally savvy; they are not impressed by hierarchy; they expect instant success; they want to be connected to other clever people; they won’t thank you
  • Bad characteristics are:
    • Taking pleasure in breaking the rules
    • Trivialising the importance of non-technical people
    • Being oversensitive about their projects
    • Suffering from knowledge-is-power syndrome
    • Never happy about the review process


  • Nothing. There is lots here for anyone who has to deal with creative people