Go Ahead, Break the Rules

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If you have even the slightest inclination to innovate you have to break the rules. You have to at times disregard the majority decisions and follow your own inner truth. If not, your ideas will die on the vine.

An executive vice president in a large financial institution told me that his leadership style was to “break glass”. He thrived on devising original solutions that met business goals. Despite the fact that he did not conduct business as usual, the Board of Directors and his boss (the CEO) loved the results he produced with his team.

Rule breakers are rewarded by organizations if they get positive results. Otherwise there is “organ rejection” — they are told to conform or leave. In families that value conformity, rule breakers are sometimes marginalized and demonized. Conformity, particularly in a dysfunctional family or work system, can result in a slow death.

So, do you want to innovate and be creative? Yes?

By nature, you are not just a rebel for the sake of being a rebel. You have a drive to explore new territory in your field and make a contribution to your organization/society. Here are some things to avoid that will sustain you as you explore and express your creative impulses.

  1. Don’t allow yourself to get squeezed into roles that are not you. Too often I find that people who want to be the architect of new strategies get trapped in tactical roles. This may work for a while but such people become bored and restless. They need to be in situations that play to their strengths.
  1. Don’t allow the fear of what others think constrain your creativity. Innovative people have to resist internalizing the criticism of bosses or families (You want to do what?) and in turn inhibit themselves with self-limiting thoughts. Any idea worth its salt will be criticized anyway.
  1. Don’t stay trapped in unproductive roles/jobs. Many innovative people leave constrictive work environments and either go off on their own or find other work situations that nurture creativity. There are many organizations that keep reinventing themselves in response to industry and customer needs. Find such a culture for yourself.

So go ahead, break the rules. Question authority. Remember, organizations that rest on their laurels for too long, now no longer exist. And people who are not willing to show flexibility of thought and action are trapped in dead end jobs or relationships.

If you have the impulse and talent to innovate and are restricted in your current role, “break glass”! (You won’t be disappointed…)

About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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