The most innovative leaders of our time were mostly assholes. Why? They refused to budge on their idea. Everything in their body told them what needed to be done to make their idea happen, and they refused to compromise on even the smallest details. This is how greatness happens.
True change only happens when someone is unwilling to listen to their critics.
This is also the exact way more careers are killed than any others. It’s all or nothing. Greatness happens at the edges, not in the middle.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit well in most corporate environments. Most MBA programs don’t teach you to be a tyrant. Leadership development, in today’s corporate world, is about bringing everyone to the middle. Finding ways that we can all get along. Even suppressing those who push the envelope too far.
We want everyone to line up nice and pretty. To play the role they were hired to play. To be the poster children for compromise.
It’s important for leaders to understand this concept if your job as a leader is to drive innovation and change. You don’t drive this through compromise and you need some renegades on your team, that quite frankly you might not even enjoy being around.
It took me so long to learn this because I was a renegade as an employee. I couldn’t understand why my leaders kept pushing me to compromise when I knew the right way to do something, the better way to do something, the new way to do something.
Once I became a leader I acted the exact same way towards those who were like me. Get back in line. Run the play. Do what the others do. That was the leadership I was taught. I didn’t value those who seemed to be fighting me, just as I use to fight. New leaders struggle with this because we take it personally.
We feel like those renegade employees are actually fighting us. When in reality they’re fighting everything. It’s our job as leaders to understand that the fight they have is super valuable if directed at the right target! To get them to understand they don’t need to fight everyone and everything but pick some fights that help us all and then support that fight.
This isn’t everyone you lead. It’s actually a really tiny number, but it seems bigger because they take up a lot of time and cause a lot of commotion amongst the drones who want to stay in their box. But, this is how change and innovation are born. By one person who is unwilling to compromise because they know a better way and they’re willing to fight to make it a reality.
This isn’t to say it will always work. Most ideas fail, but those who are willing to make an uncompromising stand for their idea, stand a better chance of seeing that idea succeed.
Here’s where I struggle. If we believe the above premise is true, it seems exclusionary. So, can we be innovative and inclusive of thought all at the same time? I’m arguing above that you can’t. What do you think? Hit me in the comments.