One of my favorite bands of all time is Aerosmith. They were at their peak popularity as I grew I up, so their music is woven into my history. In my teens, I sat in my bedroom with my electric guitar practicing the guitar lick from the beginning of Love in an Elevator for hours on end.
This past weekend, 60 minutes ran a story about the band that was really striking to me (embedded below). For those who aren’t Aerosmith fans, one of the more interesting things about the band is that they don’t really seem to like each other. And we aren’t talking about some passive, standoffish type dislike. We’re talking active, make you see red, disdain. If you take the time to watch this piece, you will be able to not only hear it in what they say, but you can read it in body language and tone. In fairness, the disdain is most intense between lead singer Steven Tyler (yep, that guy on American Idol) and the rest of the band.
As I watched the piece, I found it amazing that despite this friction/tension within their ranks, they have stuck together as a band for 40 years. The reason, from what I can gather, that they are still together is that are each really, really talented and they are committed to the band and to creating create music together. Steve Tyler, in particular, is so uniquely talented with his voice and song writing talent, that they will put up with some really nasty behavior from him for the good of the band (and the music).
So, talent and commitment to a common purpose was able to overcome a lot of conflict, friction, and about a hundred other reasons this band should have broken up 35 years ago. I’m not sure if these guys are just an anomaly or if it they represent a challenge to our thinking about talent. Steven Tyler appears to be something like the Steve Jobs of the rock world. Brilliant, innovative, a force of nature, but really hard on the people around him that he depends on for his success. And despite all of that, he is able to produce some truly amazing results in some of the greatest rock music in history.
So, the question seems to be, would you want to work with Steven Tyler? Would you want him working at your organization? Is the drama he creates around him an acceptable price to pay to benefit from his talent?
I think these talent decisions are some of the toughest we face as leaders and HR professionals. How do you make that decision?
When does the drama cancel the talent for you?