Business mavericks are abhorred and adored. The mentality of a maverick is to relentlessly seek to find better ways to do what is being done and to focus on what is not being done and ask “why.” Those who are comfortable with or indebted to the way things are, abhor the maverick as a troublesome irritation who constantly rocks the boat. Those who are frustrated by the status quo but feel powerless to bring about change, adore the successful maverick as a hero and a role model. One thing is clear, whether it is resisted or embraced, the successful maverick brings about change that ultimately benefits everyone.
For those who long to follow in the footsteps of successful mavericks, the question is: What does it take to be a successful maverick?
Let there be no doubt that the business mavericks who bring about change are those who challenge the old rules governing how and what should be done and chart new, creative courses of action. Often, these trailblazers are running new, entrepreneurial businesses, but just as often they head some of the biggest names in business.
Think of Fred Smith, founder of FedEx, Steve Jobs, the guru of Apple, Inc., Bill Gates of Microsoft, or Richard Branson of the Virgin empire. Business mavericks like these are noted first and foremost for breaking the rules; for challenging the tradition which says, “You can’t do that.” They don’t accept that as an answer and always seek to find ways that it can be done.
But it is important to understand that one need not be an industry mogul to become a successful business maverick. Anyone at any level in any business of any size can challenge the way things are and seek to do better. It makes no difference if one is tasked to do a specific job, manage a department or lead a division, it is possible to exhibit the attributes of a maverick; and spur success.
If you want to join the fraternity of successful business mavericks, you’ve got to start by thinking like they do. And the first sign of maverick tendencies is relentless curiosity. The man or woman who “cheats” on the old, outmoded rules of business is constantly asking questions and challenging the way things are done. It means being willing to accept the resistance from those wedded to the status quo and take exception to established procedures and mores.
Mavericks often exhibit other attributes as well:
- The willingness to adopt new perspectives whenever possible.
- The openness to try new things and to do old things differently.
- The compelling drive to act on ideas to test their true value.
- The eagerness to listen to others and profit from their input, regardless of who gets credit.
- Respect for and support of others when they propose new courses of action.
Being a business maverick requires an openness and willingness to look at the world in new ways. Rule-breakers know that new ideas need nurturing and support. But they know that thinking about a new idea is not enough. The true value of a good idea resides in its implementation. As management expert Peter Drucker said, “Ideas are cheap and abundant. What is of value is the effective placement of these ideas into situations that develop into action.”
On the surface, becoming a business maverick doesn’t require any special skills. You don’t have to have an MBA from an Ivy League university. In fact, you don’t need a degree at all. But if it’s so easy to be a cheater, and the potential for reward is so great, why, then, doesn’t everybody do it?
The Will to be a Maverick Is Hammered Out of Us
We have to recognize that daring to think and do things differently exposes us to risks as well as rewards. But you know what? Even though you may risk the ridicule and tsk-tsk of your friends, business associates and your boss, and an endless string of others; even though there is a risk that you’ll come up with a dumb idea for which you’ll be chastised; even though some may perceive you as a show-off or know-it-all; even though all of this may be true, when you finally succeed by doing things differently, the reward and personal satisfaction is so much better than the punishment. It’s not even a contest.
The only reason the downside exposure exists is simply to control you: to intimidate you so that you’ll be unwilling to join the ranks of mavericks and creative thinkers. The result? Many potential mavericks are afraid to engage in behavior that could potentially make waves. Instead, they lay low and avoid the possibility of future embarrassment and pain. It is a shame that most who admire the maverick and seek to follow in their path become timid feeders in a sea of conformity.
But it does not have to be that way. Even if one is not a natural born maverick, the attitude can be an acquired talent; a talent well worth learning and practicing. To develop and nurture this talent for ourselves, we have to overcome the way our psyche has been bullied for so long in an effort to get us to stop asking questions. To achieve real success in our life and career, it is essential to recondition ourselves to challenge convention. Doing so allows us to join the ranks of those mavericks who bring about real change and become a role model for others.