“Followers are more important to leaders than leaders are to followers.”BARBARA KELLERMAN
It can be incredibly satisfying or incredibly frustrating to see yourself as the only person who really understands how things should be done. Being clear enough, or smart enough, to see something others can’t see, seems to give some a competitive advantage.
Certain types of projects suit the ‘outlier’ or the ‘pioneer’ working away on their own. Creating new ideas, new models, new ways of working. This role attracts people with great conceptual thinking.
But to change the world, or an organisation, or your neighbourhood, it takes a lot more than being smarter than everyone else, or right. Unless your idea is very small scale, it won’t work if no-one will cooperate or collaborate or follow you through into implementation and then scaling up.
Mavericks need to collaborate
Often a technically inferior product or solution is adopted on a mass scale. One key reason for this can be the failure of the originator to get support for their ideas (and funding) at an appropriate stage. There is a ‘myth of the founder’ that if you have a great idea, somehow people will fall in with it and that persistence is all you need – even over decades – for that idea to take hold. The inventor/author/creator strategy is to build a better mousetrap and hope the world will beat a path to your door.
That is rarely a successful strategy on its own unless you just invented free energy!
At some point we need to start to persuade other people to believe that what we have come up with is a great idea, and we need to create a way of implementing that idea that people can collaborate with. We may need followers – from early adopter customers to staunch internal advocates within our organisation.
The skill of being the only right one, the oddball, that allows us to create this new thinking, are the very skills that fundamentally undermine us when trying to get other people to adopt our ideas! That irritating guy down the pub who knows nothing but drinks with everyone often has more influencing clout than we can muster.
Suddenly we need to be one of a group – and a group we can lead at that.
It can be tempting to view people who fail to see the brilliance of our ideas as somehow stupid. The stinging reality is that if we don’t explain it properly and inspire people to do it, it is not going to get done, however good an idea it is. Letting people know we think they are stupid hardly helps! We are all born stubborn and having a relapse when people don’t respect us!
We have two possibilities to get our intellectual baby born into the world and living and thriving. We can learn how to collaborate and lead people who do not think the way we do. Or we can find someone who is better at collaboration and leadership and find a way to communicate our ideas to them and help them carry things forward.
Every Rolls needs a Royce after all.
Neither is an easy course, but a failure to do either results in all too many brilliant ideas being stillborn. It starts with recognising that no-one can or should think like us. And it moves on to creating an effective strategy to take account of that. Or you can glower in a corner muttering about the idiots who never took on board your idea and went on to do even more stupid things.
What strategy do you employ?