Organizational Mavericks Part 1

imagesIn Hanz Finzels book, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make” (©2007 David C. Cook), he writes a chapter called “No Room For Mavericks“.

The dictionary describes a maverick as “an unorthodox or independent-minded person.”

The word comes from the 1870s when a famous pioneer in the wild western United States refused to brand his cattle. His name was Samuel A. Maverick.

Do you have a “maverick” in your organization?  Are YOU the “maverick” in your organization?

Mavericks think differently.  They approach things from a completely different perspective.

Finzel writes about the fact that most organizations desperately need mavericks to keep asking questions and to keep moving forward.

He writes,“Organizations have this nasty habit of becoming institutions.  And institutions have this great tendency to fade into irrelevance. Movements become monuments. Inspiration becomes nostalgic.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, especially as I get older, as I get a little more settled in my role and my job. I’ve always had a little maverick in me, but I also understood how to operate within an organization without pushing too many buttons or creating a mess. The reality is that I want to be a part of an organization that is being pushed, that is a little messy.  I want to be wrestling with issues of purpose and methods because we want an organization that is doing something.  We don’t want to be an organization that “used to do something.”

I’ll share more about mavericks later this week, but Finzel shares some thoughts that I want to challenge you with:

Fizel writes “The life cycle of every organization seems to eventually move from passion to paralysis over time, and it is the pioneer spirit of a maverick that can save us.”

#1) Mavericks can save us from the slide toward institutionalism. Over time our man-made organizations grow old, rigid and tired, just like we humans do. The pioneering spirit of mavericks can stop that slide and turn it around.

#2) Large organizations usually kill off mavericks before they can take root. The larger and older an organization gets, the more it tends to reject creative types. We have to learn how to cultivate pioneers among us.

#3) Mavericks make messes by their very nature – the good messes institutions need. Institutions become too organized for their own good, and thus have a hard time accepting the disruption that change agents bring.

#4) Learn to recognize truly useful mavericks. Some people just love to complain, but there are useful mavericks who do not just cause trouble, but rather truly want to make a difference. We need to create space in our organizations for these beneficial mavericks to flourish.

The challenge in leadership comes when you are called on to recognize and identify a maverick.  Mavericks take time and energy to manage. Mavericks create tension on teams. Mavericks upset things that are going smoothly. But….

Mavericks keep us moving forward. Mavericks ask great questions. Mavericks keep us on our toes.


Next we’ll talk about how to encourage true mavericks and how to stifle mavericks within your organization.


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