In the wake of his untimely death, I’ve been reading a little about Steve Jobs. From all accounts, he was a genius; something of a rebel; a free soul and a person who didn’t only think outside the box (oh how I’m beginning to loathe that expression) but simply chose not to acknowledge the existence of a box in the first place.
That’s some legacy.
All this has set me to wondering about our general approach to people who are decidedly different from the rest of us. As kids, we shun, tease and bully them. As teenagers, we use labels that are less than flattering to separate ourselves from them because they are “uncool”. And, as adults in the workplace we do our best to compel those who are different to conform to generally accepted, often unwritten, codes of behaviour.
Occasionally, a brave and determined soul will break through all that nonsense and create something truly wonderful. It’s usually something the rest of us can only dream about. That’s when being different finally becomes something to celebrate and honour.
There’s a leadership lesson in here somewhere. It’s about allowing difference to enhance the texture of organizational life. The truth is, we are each different from the other. By perpetuating organizational cultures that expect us all to be the same, we are limiting our potential to uncover and encourage the kind of activity that leads us to great invention and accomplishment.
While it’s true that not everyone considered different is going to be a genius, those who look through an uncommon lens have something to teach us. We need to make room for that.
One of my favourite books about difference is “A Peacock in the Land of Penguins” written by B.J. Gallagher Hateley and Warren H. Schmidt. This little book clearly demonstrates our struggle between accepting differences and pushing against having to do anything different. There is more about this book here.
The bottom line is this. Leadership is about a lot of things. Among them is having the courage and vision to embrace the ideas and contribution of those whose experience and perspectives challenge us. Doing so is important to our present and most certainly to our future.
So, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones”
What do you think?