Do we need more rebels? Or are we looking for something else?
If you read about leadership regularly, you must have seen the word rebel passing by. We are exposed to ‘corporate rebels,’ we learn about rebel leaders, and I’ve read the term authentic rebel on more than one occasion. Apparently, it’s refreshing to be a rebel these days.
But why do we see rebels popping up suddenly? Why is it necessary to let our rebel side go unleashed? What’s the root cause behind this rebellious movement? And do we indeed see more rebels around us?
The simple answer to these questions is because we’re (finally) tired of working for bad ‘leaders’. We’re more and more looking for leaders who can inspire us and we don’t want to waste our time with self-serving managers who believe they are leaders.
Recently I overheard a conversation at the airport between two people who were commenting on their leader. Let’s call that leader Carl for the sake of this story (and because I don’t think I know any Carl who I could potentially make uncomfortable).
Carl had lashed out in an email to some of his co-workers and included some other people. The conversation I overheard was asking the other whether he had read the email where “Carl went nuts and completely lost it.” The response was, “yes, I read it. Unbelievable. What an idiot to send an email like that and copy others”.
For a while, the two colleagues continued to talk about Carl and his leadership style. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t like the two talking about their leader like that. And I also didn’t like what I heard about Carl.
I wonder whether Carl is aware of his impact. Actually, I don’t wonder. I’m sure he’s not. Or perhaps, I hope he’s not because that would give me some hope that we may still influence Carl and turn him into a better leader.
But if Carl is doing this more often and already for a long time, we may have to conclude that he is in some way aware of his destructive impact. Carl doesn’t care because he knows he delivers results, he knows his people will cave anyway, and he knows his shareholders love him for getting results.
Why do we keep accepting bad leadership like this? Why do we keep promoting incompetent people leaders into executive management positions? Is it all about the money and our bonuses?
Do we, therefore, keep our mouth shut when the Carl’s of this world demonstrate their incompetence? And then we continue to talk about Carl at the watercooler and at airports?
Don’t get me wrong. There are many great leaders. Leaders who inspire their people to grow, perform, and make a difference. Leaders who know how to empower and get the best out of their people, over and over again, long term. Leaders who don’t burn through their people like Carl.
Many of us are not led that way. We either need to stick to the Carl’s of this world or leave and find a better leader. Or, we may be asked to leave because Carl can’t work with us. We’re difficult because we speak up and try to provide Carl with feedback, without success.
Because Carl is not open for feedback. Carl is convinced he does everything right and knows all the answers. So we’re the problem, and not Carl. Short term thinking that unfortunately continues to pay-off very often.
In my career, I’ve often received feedback I was a rebel (or a challenger, or an independent thinker). For a long time, I was proud to receive that feedback. But I’ve changed perspective.
I’ve had moments where I thought it was cool to be a rebel for rebel’s sake. Going against the grain because it’s fun to do. Challenging the status quo and see what happens. That doesn’t always work out well. Sometimes you need to settle and compromise and let your opinions go for the sake of the team. I’ve learned my lessons. “Old(er) and wise(r)” as Alan Parsons Project sings.
I’ve also worked with the Carl’s of this world, the so-called ‘my way or the highway’ type of leaders. Leaders who refused to see a different perspective. Leaders who were not able to open themselves up for the possibility they could be wrong. Leaders who sucked the energy out of their people, sooner or later.
We would only call them leaders because they have hierarchical power, but the way they led had nothing to do with leadership. If you then go against the grain, stand for yourself and your opinions and truly believe your perspective is better for team and organization, you’re not a rebel. Your leader is a bad leader. And being called a rebel in that case only highlights the incompetence of the ‘leader’.
Therefore, we don’t need more rebels. We need better leaders.
We don’t need more rebels. We need better leaders.Erikjan Lantink
We need people to stand for who they are and what they believe. We need people to push back on their leaders for the sake of personal growth, better teams, and better business.
We need leaders who embrace diversity of thought, or cognitive diversity, in their teams. Leaders who look for the differences in their people. Leaders who want people in their team who push back and say what they think. Leaders who understand that someone with a different background can add a different, and more valuable, dimension to the team.
Every human being has a unique story. Every human being different from us has the potential to enrich our lives and let us see a perspective we never thought. That’s good for us as human beings, and it’s a short connection then to understand how that can also be good for business. We get to see different solutions to the problems we face.
It shouldn’t take rebellion to get us there. It should take leaders willing to confront themselves, becoming the inclusive and empowering leaders they can be. They should become the rebels to themselves. That’s when we will see change, and we don’t need to be rebels anymore to others.
Your turn: How do you want to be led? And why should anyone be led by you?
Enjoy your week!