Herding Tigers: Key Takeaways from Todd Henry’s Book

Frances Roy AgencyApril 5, 2022

While reading this book, my mind kept going back to Siegfried & Roy. Maybe that’s the Type 8 in me, but my memory of the duo was that a tiger ate someone. Period. Roy was mauled and drug offstage by his tiger, Mantacore, but I guarantee most people remember Roy dying in this “accident.” The truth is, Roy died in 2020 from COVID-19 complications. 

Plot twist. 

Herding creative tigers is not for everyone, but it certainly can be done. Creatives are brilliant, more intelligent than you and me but let’s be honest; they aren’t slitting throats here. In my experience, creativity thrives in environments where strong leadership strives, and Todd Henry’s book only affirmed this experience. 

Here is what sticks with me:

“As the leader of the team, you’re holding the loaded gun…Put your loaded gun away.”

Be hyper-aware of your ability to forecast and change the weather. Self-awareness has taught me that my personality and mood set the tone. I can change the temperature in my workspace quickly, and it’s bullshit to walk around like I am entitled to this like a superpower. Lead with transparency; hoarding information is a passive-aggressive power move, and it sucks for your team.

“When you do the work, the capacity of your team never scales beyond you.”

Ok, Henry - I agree, but I counterpoint that this is slightly different for owners/leaders. Most of us started by doing the work, and letting this go isn’t easy. It must be done, however, and as quickly as you can. I remain a work in progress, but I’m getting there - I want Frances Roy to thrive, and it will reach a ceiling if I do not step out of the way. 

“By showing that you recognize your mistakes, your team will see that you aren’t wearing blinders.”

Everyone hates making mistakes - creatives detest making mistakes, and leaders like to pretend they never make mistakes. What an arena. The pendulum swings from an absolute failure to creating something that isn’t a preference. Failures are critical, and owning mine is a daily practice I try to do in front of my team of tigers. I’m comfortable with their mistakes, and I’ll have their backs through every mistake they make. 

“Never violate your personal ethics in order to achieve temporal gain. It’s not worth it.”

Mentors need mentors, and leaders need leadership. I have no idea how other leaders lead without guidance, and I’m not going to try it. Seek counsel at every possible opportunity. No one thinks you know everything because you don’t. Find your value center, plant your feet, and build an army of stronger and smarter people around you. Then go to war. 


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