“Brilliant Jerks.”

“Atlassian says it will no longer tolerate “brilliant jerks” who deliver results for the company but make life hell for their co-workers as part of a complete overhaul of how the tech firm conducts performance reviews.”  

This is the opening line of a recent article Written by Frank Chung at the, Australia’s top news site, and it caught our eye.

We loved this.

What Defines a Brilliant Jerk? 

Think about it. We all know them. 

They are high performers whose contribution to driving results comes at the expense of people, the team or organizational culture-often all three at once! 

Brilliant jerks are a tricky bunch, and pose a challenge to leaders who value their performance excellence but not their contribution to conflict, employee dissatisfaction, and sometimes, chaos. 

We hear more and more from our clients about the top three things they really want to see in their leaders beyond performance excellence: 

  1. Deeply held, observable (in action) commitment and alignment to the values, vision, mission and purpose of the organization 
  2. Empathy, compassion and kindness for all their colleagues
  3. Commitment and contribution to the development and success of others through collaboration, coordination and connection

We couldn’t agree more: these are exactly the right aspirations and expectations to have of leaders. 

However, these capabilities and competencies won’t happen without an intentional commitment to and investment in building a culture that has the systems, structures and processes in place to support them. Often, it’s when we begin to talk about the “C” and “I” words (commitment and investment) that the conversation often gets a bit…sticky.

Facing the Discomfort.

We know that most organizations are not used to or comfortable with investing in the level of resources, time and money needed to build cultures that support and drive inspired performance, but it is exactly this discomfort and hesitation that prevents them from creating the conditions and strong culture to get the results they really want. 

What makes us at InspireCorps the most uncomfortable is the hundreds of millions of dollars that organizations choose to invest in one-off, short duration trainings that don’t ultimately result in behavioral change or the kinds of culture that organizations desire. 

We don’t believe in “training”.  We believe in a new kind of partnership where key aspirations and outcomes are identified, solutions co-created, and a concrete plan for practice, integration and sustainable transformation is not only possible, but produced.

New Standards of Excellence in Organizations.

“Brilliant jerks” caught our eye because Atlassian’s stand on no longer tolerating these individuals signals their commitment to setting a new standard of excellence. They have boldly and courageously taken a stand to do things differently, starting with their approach to performance management and being strategic about what they will be measuring. 

Instead of merely measuring ability to hit goals and target metrics, they will measure how each employee:

  • Impacts others on their team
  • Lives the company values
  • Brings their whole self to work

We love bold and brave, especially when it comes to designing solutions to build inspired leaders and culture.

According to Atlasssian global head of talent Bek Chee, “Fundamentally this does not change the way we think about high performers. Our top performers we know nail it in terms of living values and being part of the team and delivering in their role. I definitely think some people could look at a system that has values and team and culture tied into it and get concerned, but we know from our own experience and research that these behaviors encourage collaboration and lead to high performance, it’s not just, ‘Oh they’re friendly and they smile.’”

We invite you to consider the following questions:

  1. What are your aspirations and expectations for your employees?
  2. How are you designing systems and structures that support your organization to create these desired outcomes?


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