How to lead, challenge and coach corporate rebels

Change needs dis­tur­bance. Every orga­ni­za­tion needs peo­ple who ques­tion the sta­tus quo. As jesters or cor­po­rate rebels, they cause con­struc­tive irri­ta­tion and thus pre­vent dan­ger­ous stag­na­tion. After the ten prin­ci­ples addressed to the cor­po­rate rebels them­selves, the ques­tion now nat­u­ral­ly aris­es of how to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment for con­struc­tive rebel­lious­ness and how to lead, chal­lenge and coach rebels.

For this Tan­may Vora pub­lished the fol­low­ing beau­ti­ful sketch­note under a Cre­ative Com­mons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license based on the orig­i­nal idea of Lois Kel­ly and Car­men Med­i­na at Rebels at Work.

Lead­ers who want to pro­mote rebels cre­ate a cul­ture in which diver­si­ty is appre­ci­at­ed. They cre­ate a secure space in which it is both desired and appre­ci­at­ed to ques­tion the sta­tus quo. And this space extends well beyond the actu­al area of respon­si­bil­i­ty of the respec­tive man­ag­er. In the jun­gle of pol­i­tics in the orga­ni­za­tion there are enough pit­falls that trig­ger an imme­di­ate and more or less severe immune response of the sys­tem. It is the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the exec­u­tives to rec­og­nize and avoid these pit­falls and thus to pro­tect their rebels. And that makes them rebels themselves.

Man­age­ment is doing things right; lead­er­ship is doing the right things.
Peter F. Drucker

One cru­cial aspect is miss­ing from the line-up of Lois Kel­ly and Car­men Med­i­na above, or was implic­it­ly clear to them: rebels need free­dom to first and fore­most be able to ques­tion the sta­tus quo and sec­ond­ly and even more impor­tant­ly to be able to think and try out new, dif­fer­ent and hope­ful­ly bet­ter things. Yet it would be real­ly great if not only a few select­ed rebels have this free­dom, but as many as pos­si­ble, so that the rebel­lious ideas can find pos­i­tive res­o­nance. Cre­at­ing this free­dom through con­sis­tent focus on the essen­tials and a cul­ture of sus­tain­abil­i­ty in which being busy is not con­fused with pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is also an indis­pens­able task for executives.

In such an envi­ron­ment, rebels are com­fort­able and want and should be chal­lenged. Some­times all it takes is a small push of empow­er­ment, and dehy­drat­ed and encrust­ed cul­tures blos­som again. Satya Nadel­la, CEO of Microsoft, describes this empow­er­ment as a key fac­tor in his new book “Hit Refresh”:

The key to the cul­ture change was indi­vid­ual empow­er­ment. We some­times under­es­ti­mate what we each can do to make things hap­pen, and over­es­ti­mate what oth­ers need to do for us. I became irri­tat­ed once dur­ing an employ­ee Q&A when some­one asked me, “Why can’t I print a doc­u­ment from my mobile phone?” I polite­ly told him, “Make it hap­pen. You have full authority.“
Satya Nadel­la, Hit Refresh

The longer you think about these lead­er­ship tasks, the more you come to the con­clu­sion that all this actu­al­ly has lit­tle to do with rebels. Or to put it anoth­er way, every employ­ee should be led like a rebel. Every­one should have the free­dom to try out and learn with­out get­ting lost in the polit­i­cal mills. Every­one should have the free­dom to think out­side the box and ques­tion the sta­tus quo. And every­one should be empow­ered and encour­aged to make use of it.

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