Rebels are seldom popular.
Rebels usually offend not only senior management, but also their colleagues. Therefore, conformity seems to be the way to success. People often say they do not like yes-men, but experience suggests otherwise. Managers like subordinates to be subordinate.
What about rebels in fiction?
Often the hero in fiction is the one who doesn’t fit in. In detective fiction we often find the hero is a maverick cop. Some of us use amateur detectives as heroes who are free to operate outside the confines of police procedures and discipline. Although I write fiction, I believe systems and procedures can be too restrictive. Problem solving, including crime solving often needs creativity – thinking outside the box. Of course, there are many situations where following established procedures is the right way, but those stories aren’t all that interesting.
Who wants rebels?
Dominic Cummings has said the government should recruit ‘weirdos and misfits’ to shake up the civil service. Whilst that statement has alarmed many in the Civil Service and beyond, there are plenty of politicians who think a shakeup would be a good thing. Too many civil servants think the same way and are reluctant to accept change. Others are concerned that the government will simply choose yes-men. They fear such people will be unable to tell ministers when they are wrong.
Do you need rebels?
Whatever you think of Dominic Cummings or of the Civil Service, you need to think about your own business. Do you surround yourself with yes-men or with ‘misfits and weirdos’? Some managers make mistakes because nobody will tell them they are wrong. They hear only their own ideas coming back like echoes. I have written before about the need to respect experts, but even they can be conservative or radical.
Is it time for rebels?
The longer your business has existed and the more successful it is, the greater the danger of ossification. The best plan is not always doing way you have always done in the way you have always done it. New ideas can be highly profitable. On the other hand, when you are going through difficulties, you might need stability. People who generate disagreement may be dangerous. They may want to take risks when you need to head for safety. However, playing safe is not always the best option. You need to manage risks not run away from them. I explain this in my book Load The Dice. You might find it helpful.
Rebels or Yes-men: is there another option?
Fortunately, the choice is not binary. People do not come in only two flavours. You certainly want to avoid people who do not agree with your basic philosophy or overall strategy. Similarly, you do not want to be around people who are always negative. You do, however, need people who can tell you when you are wrong. Someone described me as ‘a critical friend’ and I know it was meant as a compliment. I can argue constructively and supportively and I try to help clients reach their objectives – not mine! Fortunately, I am not unique. Look for people who will question but not undermine you. We do exist.