Heretical Leadership

I have been reflecting again on some of what I read in Tribes by Seth Godin. Essentially its a book about the challenges of innovation, entrepeneurship and creativity in leadership.

Godin is calling people to ‘lead’, to step up and actually choose to be different from the crowd and be a ‘heretic’. What he is meaning by that is to choose to lead distinctively and to chart your own course rather than seeking to be the ‘best clone’ amongst many others.

Its about making a choice not to conform – because in that choice there is an opportunity make some difference.

Its not as stupid as just ‘be different for the sake of being different’, but rather its a challenge to consider our own unique vocation and to make the most of it – to rise above the crowd of sameness and mediocrity.

I sense it’s way too easy to simply ask ‘what are the rules of the system’ and then to play within them as best you are able when I am convinced it would be much more inspiring (and potentially productive) to ask ‘what is the objective’ and from there to figure out the best way to achieve the goal irrespective of the rules of the ‘system’ we find ourselves within.

Of course ‘systems’ exist for a reason and many people have lots invested in them so the idea of leading but not playing by the rules will disturb those who either like the rules or have created the rules.

Godin says ‘When you fall in love with the system you lose the ability to grow’ (p.71) I am guessing that because you close your mind to other possibilities and you choose to look thru only one lens at the problem in question.

I really like that Danelle & I have chosen the homeschool route – not simply because it is different – but because it fits with who we are and reflects our own values and philosophies. It would have been quite possible to help our kids achieve the best they could within ‘the system’ by sending them to a private school and give them any extra tuition required, but we are looking thru a different lens and hence the outcome has been different.

I believe the challenge is to retain an open mind, to see alternative thinking as not for the hippies and renegades but for anyone who wants to do more than cruise in a comfortable rut.

Godin writes: In order to lead you must challenge the status quo of the religion you are living under” p. 70

I’ve been blessed to have spent much of the last 10 years around people who are ‘heretics’ and the value to my own leadership development has been immense. It makes life more complicated on occasions because I no longer see ‘stock answers’ as immediately acceptable, but then if I am not inspired to be the ‘best clone’ I can be then I am guessing plenty of others also want to walk to the beat of a different drum.

On that note here’s a final quote from Godin:

“Who settles? Settling is no fun. Its a malignant habit, a slippery slope that takes you to mediocrity… The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on”. P67

I think the question most of us face is ‘do we really know who we are and what we will refuse to compromise on?’

If we do then we can lead with distinctiveness and conviction, which will always trump simply being skilled at working the ‘system’.

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