Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. Lord Acton
On the surface, giving more power to talented people is a good idea. Especially when the talent has a track record of success. Organizations hand the keys to their best and brightest because we intrinsically believe that giving the talented more power breeds more success. More times than not this isn’t true. Giving more power often tears down the infrastructure responsible for initial success.
Nic Pizzolatto, Kobe Bryant, and Chip Kelly are three men given autonomy in their fields because of their talent. Pizzolatto deserves credit for the success of True Detective’s first season. He toiled over the script for nearly a decade, sold the successfully pitched the series to HBO. His work was compelling enough to draw A-list actors, Matthew McConaughey, and Woody Harrelson.
The star power of leads drew viewers and raised expectations. Expectations which the show surpassed. The show became the most-watched first season in HBO’s history. Pizzolatto was further buoyed by the direction of Cary Fukunaga. The visionary’s careful crafted the world Pizzolatto deserved.
This season the A-list stars are gone, replaced by serviceable actors with far less wattage. Fukunaga is absent as well, amidst rumors of a feud with Pizzolatto fueling his departure.
As a result season 2 is filled with the writer’s worst impulses. His fingerprints mark each episode with a sloppiness resembling the criminals and law enforcement officers that inhabit the show.
In season one Pizzolatto’s existential monologues were rescued by McConaughey’s idiosyncrasies. This season Vince Vaughn fails miserably in a role he was miscast for. When Rachel Adams and Collin Ferrell descend into darkness Woody Harrelson isn’t there to make light of it. The only humor season two provides is unintentional. To use a sports reference Nick ran off his Shaq (Fukunaga) and his Phil (Matthew and Woody) retired.
Kobe Bryant’s last two seasons have not played out the way he would’ve written. His quest to tie Jordan’s ring count appears hopeless. He’s run off anyone that could help him achieve his goal years ago. Now he toils on a horrible team as father time continues to defeat him.Kobe’s refusal to take a lesser role is sold by his supporters as a desire to win. In reality, its stubbornness and failure to adapt have marred the ending of a spectacular career.
Similar to the aforementioned men Chip Kelly’s abilities have taken him to the point where he has autonomy. Kelly turned perennial doormat Oregon into a national brand.His abilities made him a sought after commodity and after years of wooing Chip eventually signed the dotted line and became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
After making the playoffs and taking the league by storm in year one, Kelly has continually flummoxed the football world by cutting or trading established stars. In their confusion, his former players have hinted at race as the motive. They are confusing Kelly’s mishandling of power for racism. Kelly isn’t a collaborator, he’s a dictator. He wants robots that perform the system the way he designed it.
The problem for Kelly is that it’s much easier to bend redshirt freshmen to his will than millionaires. Kelly’s inflexibility may ultimately be his undoing. The best leaders don’t sit on high detached from those they follow. They are on the ground with them, asking questions, observing and gaining feedback.
It’s probably too late for Kobe to change his ways but for Pizzolatto and Kelly there’s still time to become collaborative leaders. A good leader must first lead themselves by realizing their talent and knowledge is finite, but the possibilities of collaboration are infinite.