Aberrant Geniuses (aka jerks)

Eric Friedman
3 min readMay 21, 2019
Trillion Dollar Coach

In the book Trillion Dollar Coach about Bill Campbell, there is an important section on Aberrant Geniuses. I like this term because he is using it in place of divas (or assholes). I have a low tolerance for this kind, but this shows them in a new light which I can appreciate.

The book describes them as sometimes being enormously valuable when they are directed in the right way. However their egos and “me first” attitudes can be detrimental to a team. This is where the art of managing + coaching them comes in.

The portion that stands out is the description itself:

Aberrant geniuses are high performing but difficult team members — [that] should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues, and teams.

Trillion Dollar Coach

It goes on to define what you should never tolerate, such as lying and harassment. This also sounds painfully obvious, but from firsthand coaching experience with founders there are many that are willing to put up with awful behavior for the sake of the aberrant genius output.

I think about this in the context of damage vs contribution and have asked founders to do a matrix of what the two looks like. Its very clear that toxic…

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