Posted by: malstott | February 27, 2010

Unreasonable Leaders

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw; Irish dramatist & socialist (1856 – 1950)

Leaders don’t blend in. Leaders push the edges and make changes. Progress is made because those changes are usually the right ones. The best leaders combine bold action with accuracy. They are right enough of the time that they move an organization forward in a good direction.

It is helpful to be able to adapt to the world around you. It is a survival skill in the natural world and certainly in the business world. So the dilemma is how to adapt to a new company or a new job without losing your portion of unreasonableness. Here are my tricks:

  1. Keep reading. Read anything that expands your perspective.
  2. Network. Talk to mentors.
  3. Write down audacious goals for the organization.
  4. Pull back from the job periodically. Don’t get so focused on the job that you stop comparing and contrasting.
  5. Listen to people. Usually the best ideas are out there already. They just need a champion.
  6. Describe your unreasonable vision to your team but leave out the  word “unreasonable”.
  7. Reflect on progress. Celebrate success with enthusiasm and acknowledge mistakes without apology.

Unreasonable leaders take risks and move outside of what is comfortable because they see a different state of play. They don’t accept what is perhaps good enough to some. Leaders can be blamed for the organizational discomfort that change brings. However, in the long run the uncomfortable memories fade when success is claimed.

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