Are you brave enough to be a business maverick?

Remake the rules, rethink how you measure success, let your values lead you and ask bigger questions.

  • A maverick person doesn’t tear up the rule book but remakes the rules.
  • A maverick is the author of their own lives. They are led by their values and practical application of the principles they arrive at.
  • We can all be mavericks but often we forget our instinct for it, here’s how to begin to identify, develop and engage your inner maverick at work.

Being successful is in part, by definition, being different. However, organisations tend to crush that unique differentiator they seek.

The role that the fear of standing out and bureaucracy plays in smothering our innate maverick cannot be underestimated.

How a business becomes different and nurtures that innate spark in its people, is not solely because of an alchemy of psychology and economics but a third ingredient as well – you.

A you reorientated toward the organisation, your career and yourself, in a way that engages some of the deepest motivations. Questions about who we are, how we shape ourselves as individuals and leaders, and how we fit into organisations and society.

A true maverick isn’t someone who tears up the rule book. A business maverick doesn’t just break rules but remakes them, they are people who measure different metrics and ask bigger questions.

This is a human centred strategy. The answer must be people, because if it is profit centred then this business, your business, which you might be about to pour your life into, will be just like every other in its sector. It might survive a while, but will you flourish? Devoid of humanity, it will be far less profitable than it might have been. It will never reach its potential, and it will never be resilient.

Discover fresh perspectives and research insights from LBS

“A maverick wants to make a better world and they are resourceful.”

The difference between a conventional and a maverick business is partly the commitment it is given by its people and the corresponding quality of their ideas, paying dividends again and again.

The difference between a maverick and an oddball is measured in success and failure. Taking a measured risk, asking sometimes obvious questions, is the risk the maverick takes. A true maverick does not take wild risks. In turn, lifting the stigma around experimentation, testing and failing is one of the key challenges faced by organisations.


Can anyone be a maverick?

Universal questions in life are in a sense obvious, but in context they often become elusive. Questions the greatest minds have weighed about who we are and what we are to do with our lives, don’t seem relevant in an office.

What could they be used for in a business context?

Take for example that perennial list of hopes and gripes. We all know the laundry list, drafted on flip charts at team building events. Changing these lists begins with individuals, individuals who take up the moral obligation to be themselves, to take responsibility for the authorship of their lives. Or as Nelson Mandela said, ‘to become the change you want to see in the world.’

“A business maverick doesn’t just break rules but remakes them.”

Some might say ‘that is fine for the talented few’, but they rule themselves out at the start. As the late Dr George Land put it in his excellent Tedx Talk ‘The failure of success’, we are all born with creative genius, but too many of us forget who we are. We become inured to hearing the word ‘no’ and eventually a certain type of education grinds us down.


How to become a maverick

Here is how to promote maverick within you and in your organisation. It is a question of cherishing what is already present but has become dimmed with time. Here are three quick starting points:

  1. Stop working for your organisation and see the organisation as it really is, as working for you. An organisation enables your skills and abilities to have more impact through others. It should be a magnifier of individual talents.
  1. Stop overthinking strategies, instead experiment. Open your senses and adapt to your environment. Be present and allow your values to lead to your actions.
  1. Learn from mavericks in your network. In preparation for our book ‘Mavericks: How Bold Leadership Changes the World’ (with co-author Tamryn Batcheller-Adams) we identified 30 from 200 or so. We asked ourselves, what makes these few individuals special? We found five characteristics: ambition, resourcefulness, a willingness to experiment, unconventional thought and an undeterrable spirit.

A maverick’s ambition is to want to make a better world and they are resourceful, often great networkers and persuaders who leverage the organisation. The three other features are less obvious; mavericks are not afraid to experiment, experimenting responsibly within their framework; they are unconventional thinkers; and they are undeterred by setbacks.

It has been said that a good career is made up of five moments, five key decisions when you were at your best. Think about your career and imagine these maverick moments filling your everyday.

If you start to believe in yourself, and you choose who you really want to be, you too could be a business maverick.

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