It is one of the dilemmas of being a parent: if your child is always well behaved does that make you proud or do you also feel that there is more to life than behaving well? That mixed feeling you have when your child is sent home from school for committing some kind of mischief.
You know that the ones who always follow the rules and do as they are told are not the ones who are going to make a difference and you can seriously doubt whether they are living their own lives or trying to live up to the expectations of their surroundings.
Is that important?
I realise that we now live in an age where individuality and leaving a legacy are deemed a lot more important than several hundreds of years ago and that reactions to the dilemma above would be different in different parts of the world.
However, I do believe you’ll have a more fulfilling life when you follow your own path. So yes, it is important. To find out what your path is you’ll have to test the boundaries and stray from it. This deviating may involve a correction from your surroundings and sometimes this correction can be severe. That’s why the more you grow up, the more courage you’ll need to deviate as you might be more aware of the negative consequences of not adhering to the rules and you may have forgotten how much fun it was to behave mischievously.
As a leader you face the same dilemma. Are you happy with employees who always do as they’re told? Undoubtedly there are times when you long for colleagues and employees who execute exactly what you have in mind. But in organisations the ones who will make a difference, the ones who will bring the group to next levels are the ‘naughty’ ones.
And it is not being naughty just to be naughty. No, the fearless monkey is effectively naughty. Or at least most of the time. The fearless monkey has guts with the intention of creating value for the sake of the organisation. The fearless monkey realises that reality and the future can never be captured in pre-established rules.
To work efficiently with a group of people you need clear procedures and rules, but they will only maintain the status quo, if you are lucky. They will not help you find new ways of doing business. It depends a bit of course on the rule; if a rule says “do something this afternoon completely against the rules of the company” you will be following a rule no matter what you do. But I’m talking about the majority of organisations with their handbooks, rules and procedures.
So the big challenge for the leader is to set clear rules on the one side and foster effective naughtiness from the people around you on the other side. One of the ways to get there is rather than rules like agreements, to have rules like intentions or alignments. I will address this in the next blog.