Crook or Genius?

Topics: HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser


Both innovation and leadership require the ability to see opportunity where others do not believe it exists. Is it possible to see the difference between genius and criminality?

Crook or Genius?

The line between transformative leader and criminal might be best understood as a whim of the grand jury. What seems like brilliance in the group-think of a company’s leadership ghetto often comes to haunt the team. Players seem to become perps almost overnight.

Human Resources, particularly in its Talent Management modality, holds some (if not most) of the responsibility for identifying, acquiring and nurturing the people who energize the organization. Leadership development, succession planning, recruiting, compensation management and competency analysis all demand sound people judgment skills. To be useful at all, the HR team must be able to have and hold good (and articulate) assessment of the organization’s key players.

One great question is whether or not it’s even possible to see the difference between genius and criminality. Another is how much emphasis is to be placed on the risk of discovery. Still another is whether or not it’s possible to generalize these issues at all.

Both innovation and leadership require the ability to see opportunity where others do not believe it exists. Agility, speed and market advantage are all gained by going where the others can’t or won’t. It is this entrepreneurial and (apparently) risky behavior that we want and expect from our best and brightest.

Here’s where it gets murky.

The very same instincts that are used for seeing opportunity are the ones used to see opportunity that crosses the legal line.

Are you surprised by the fact that no HR organization has published material talking about how to avoid being the next Enron or Lehman Brothers? Could it be that the folks in HR and its supporting industries are incapable of seeing a bad apple when it’s in the bin? Could the difference between a bad apple and a good one be so slight that no one could tell?

And, what is HR’s role once the rotten fruit is discovered? Stick to payroll and leave it alone? Try to intervene? Go to the regulatory agencies? Resign?

As transparency becomes the organizational norm, HR is going to get larger responsibility and increased accountability. How will we bear up and what is our proper role?

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