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To be naughty or not, that’s the question


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 feel that there is more to life than behaving well? This is the mixed feeling you may experience when your child is sent home from school for committing some kind of mischief.

We are told that the ones who follow the rules and do as they are told are rarely the ones who make a difference -- and you can seriously doubt whether they are living their own lives or trying to live up to the expectations of others.

How is this important? I am aware we are now living in an age where individuality and 'leaving a legacy' are deemed a lot more important than even a few decades ago. Also, reactions to the dilemma above will 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. This is why it is important. To find out what your path is, you’ll have to test boundaries and stray from them. This deviating may involve a correction from your surroundings; sometimes, this correction can be severe. That’s why, as you grow up, ever more courage is needed to deviate: you'll be aware of the negative consequences of not adhering to the rules. You may even 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 to just do exactly what you have in mind. But in organisations and in business, the ones who make a difference, the ones who will bring the group to next level, are the ‘naughty’ ones.

But it's not being naughty just to be naughty. No, the fearless monkey is effectively naughty. At least most of the time. The fearless monkey has the intention of creating value for the sake of the organisation. The fearless monkey realises that 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 on the rule of course; if a rule says, “This afternoon, do something completely against the rules of the company” a rule will be followed, no matter what. I’m talking about the majority of organisations with their handbooks, rules and procedures.

So, the big challenge for a leader is to set clear rules AND to foster effective naughtiness from the people around you. Deviation from the rules, for the future good of the company. One of the ways to get there is to have rules work like like intentions or alignments, not restrictions.

I will address this in the next blog.


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