The Maverick and change – driver or engineer? Change happens all of the time (except from a broken vending machine). Sometimes change happens to us, sometimes we get to shape it. As a change agent, I like to think I can shape change … but sometimes in truth it’s more harnessing the energy of change and going along for the ride, however bumpy it becomes!
And that got me thinking. As a Maverick thinker (and doer) I wondered where in the change, Maverickness plays a role. Let’s look at the infographic below. Inspired by the Kübler-Ross change curve, I combined this with Broadwell and later Burch’s thought leadership on learning phases. When put together with competency phases, the change/grief curve seemed to me to offer a wealth of opportunities to learn, about self, others and the world around us. For this reason, I call what I developed “The Opportunity Curve”, below).
The visceral responses of Fear and Anger correspond with unconscious incompetence in the Burch elements I include in the graphic. That could trigger different Maverick responses: the Extreme Maverick  could respond in aggressive defensiveness, responding in a way which kept themselves safe but which damaged others. In Socialised Mavericks , however, this could lead to unpredictable responses, courage in the face of adversity, quirky solutions … the classic “Maverick” behaviours play out.
On the other hand, when we get into the upside of the curve, Maverick behaviours come out to play. Openness to opportunity, to new thinking – radical even. It’s where we often see those innovations synonymous with change projects.
Change projects are what consultants have termed a range of ways that companies and other organisations introduce improvements. Doing this differently, normally means doing things better. And to do things differently ON PURPOSE is where you need to create and communicate a vision. You’d be steering a course, helping the organisation to achieve more. It is purposeful and needs to be. Unconscious incompetence is what lands you needing the change, so it’s not a great thing to have as your direction.
So, maybe Mavericks are the drivers of change? Their individual approach to change, their freedom of ideas and expression, their preparedness to be independent … all these things would enable the Maverick leader to drive improvements.
I would argue, however, that the Maverick leader can also play other roles, at other places in the change/opportunity curve and, therefore, at other stages in change projects. All change requires momentum.
The Kübler-Ross curve is actually a snapshot of a cycle, where the next level up plateaus and results in a subsequent slump and redemption, just a little higher up the page!
Momentum is something that Mavericks do really well. To maintain momentum, the change project needs inspirational leadership, a convincing vision and repeated encouragement. All Maverick skills. However, they are all signs of leadership that can come from within the project team, not simply be out in front.
Leadership can be shown by anyone at any time. It’s not the preserve of the project leader or the visionary. It can be the people who keep on keeping on, show up, encourage others, recognise others. These are the people who catch us all when we are in that dip of the curve, enabling Acceptance and encouraging those around them to move on up to Openness. This takes perseverance and patience – guts, even. There will be a lot of negativity to tackle, as well as skilled negotiation and persuasion skills required. That is often where the individual and quirky Maverickness can make a world of difference. It undermines the “seen it all before” ennui of experienced team members.
Maintaining momentum is, I would argue, more the preserve of the engine than the driver. Inspiration does not need to be hero-leadership. It can be the factor that keeps a team together. It can be the factor that keeps a team performing and excelling. It’s what keeps a project driving on, with power and purpose.
The beauty of Maverickness in change is that it is versatile, capable of being applied to all stages of the Opportunity curve. Maverick leaders can bring different parts of their unique skillset to play in all the stages. To revisit the change-as-vehicle metaphor again, you wouldn’t want everyone to be driving with nothing from the engine, and you wouldn’t want all power and no driver for direction. It is important to remember that different stages require different styles of leadership. And we Mavericks offer something for them all.