Book Review: Herding Tigers-Be the Leader That Creative People Need by Todd Henry

“Much of the dysfunction and tension that exists in the workplace is the result of highly creative people’s needs not being met. If you step back and examine the patterns, you’ll find that a lot of bad behavior occurs when there is poor or inattentive leadership”-Todd Henry

And that, my fellow citizens of the Island of the Misfit Creatives is the gist of Toddy Henry’s practical, timely and eye-opening book Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Want.

There is an idea that dealing and managing creative types is like managing cats, but Todd thinks that idea is insulting to creative types. No, it’s more like herding tigers-creative types are often brilliant, driven and need the proper environment to bring all their talents that provide results that satisfy management, clients and yes, creative types.

After a brief introduction, the book leads off with a chapter on what creative people need. It also dispels myths about creative types. These myths include concepts like creative types wanting full control to create and we’re obsessed with working on ideas that are considered “cool.” Creative types are totally insecure (when we aren’t being total egomaniacs). Creative types are flaky and flighty and lack analytical ability and business acumen.

Okay, we got the myths out of the way. But what do we need in the workplace? Creative people need both stability (clarity and protection) and challenge (permission and faith) to thrive in the workplace.

Now, this is easier said than done and Henry builds on this theory throughout Herding Tigers. After providing us a clear mantra on what creatives need. Herding Tigers divides itself into two distinct parts. The first part implores management to focus on its current mindset. In the second part Henry shares the mechanics when it comes to leading creative types for both established management and for those who go from being peers to management.

While reading Herding Tigers I kept nodding my head, thinking to myself, “Yes, someone who gets it!” I also felt a wee bit bereft because as a creative it is Henry’s idea of managing creatives, which has been missing the most in my life as a working creative. I’ve often felt misunderstood, caught up in feelings of lost, angry and stuck in places where I should have flourished. If I was queen of the world, every manager and every organization that relies on work by creative types, would be required by law to read this book and implement Henry’s wise, compassion and practical advice, concepts and checkpoints when handling me and my fellow tigers. And don’t worry managers of Tigers, Henry is also in your corner. He truly cares about all of us. (And to be honest, I think Herding Tigers is just a good management book even if you’re not leading creative types).

Herding Tigers is a book that I can imagine reading again and again. In fact, my copy is littered with little post-its, highlighting passages and ideas that I agree with or I find interesting and valuable. I’ve also written down Henry’s advice in a notebook to refer to again and again.

I highly recommend Toddy Henry’s Herding Tigers to both management and creatives. Creatives will recognize themselves and management will be enlightened by Henry’s timeless and timely book. Herding Tigers isn’t just one of the best books on leadership I have read this year; it just might be one of the best books leadership I’ve ever read.

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