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Radical notion: Leaders should lead


According to The Wall Street Journal, the WB television network is giving up on test audiences as a way of deciding which shows to put on the air. “Rather than rely on a few dozen viewers to dictate the fate of everything from characters to story lines, WB executives say they will now go with their own gut instincts,” the Journal reported.

If that idea were to spread, it could change the business world dramatically.

Imagine a time when highly paid leaders are expected to rely exclusively on their own judgment. The transition period could be messy, and even a little scary, but the eventual results would be fascinating.

With luck and the right people, we’d see a bit more creativity that hasn’t been watered down by endless committee meetings. Maybe we would experience more often the exciting shock of honesty instead of the dull comfort of caution. Of course, we would still see a fair number of spectacular failures, but that’s just part of human endeavor.

Besides, the prevailing method doesn’t sift quality very well, certainly not in the TV industry. The Journal notes that “Seinfeld” was “one of the worst-testing shows of all time.” You know how that turned out.

In the literary realm, we find these examples of early opinion:

Twenty publishers rejected “Gone With the Wind.”

The Saturday Review of Literature tagged “The Great Gatsby” as “an absurd story.”

Voltaire sat through Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and labeled it “the work of a drunken savage.”

Fortunately, most of us can avoid such instant public reviews of our work, but we all make decisions and face the consequences. As you rise to the top level of the game, the financial stakes just grow larger. But people should climb the career ladder because they’re willing to accept such responsibility, not because they look great in a suit.

People at the lower levels of an organization expect the well-rewarded people at the top to be willing and able to make reasonable decisions based on their own experience, knowledge and best hunches. When the boss tells the employee, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” the employee thinks, “Then why do we need you?”

For example, if you can be a wealthy success in the glamorous world of network TV just by looking at the needle on an applause meter, hey, send us a job application.

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