The Troublemakers Will Inherit The Earth

We used to say “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team'”. But that’s no longer the case. Your team members have unique talents, individual goals, and innovative ideas. They want you to be their mentor, not just their manager. They want work that gives them meaning, not just money. They want to know what’s going on – not just in their tiny corner of the organisation, but everywhere – because they might be able to help. They will happily share their knowledge of social media, technology, and online culture – if you ask. They might already have built a thriving following outside work, and will gladly partner with you – if you’re the right fit for them.

That’s why there is an ‘I’ in “Team” now. Your power comes from each person in your team, not only from the team as a whole. Tap into the power of those individuals and you’ll build a strong, vibrant team.

That’s why we also need a new kind of leadership. Now, the most successful leaders understand that people follow you because of who you are, not because of your job title; individuals perform best when you recognise and value their unique skills; and your teams aren’t restricted to just the people inside the four walls of your office.

Not all leaders will rise to this challenge. If you call your people “resources”, define their roles by their job descriptions, see them as interchangeable parts in a machine, or view your Generation Y employees as demanding and self-absorbed, you won’t be able to make this work. It’s about embracing the talents and skills of the individuals in your team, and you can’t do that if you expect them to just do as they are told.

You also have to be able to work with unreasonable people. As George Bernard Shaw said:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

The team members who are unreasonable, contrarian, difficult, challenging, argumentative, and sceptical might be the best people in your team.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. Not every unreasonable person is a genius, nor is every quiet plodder incapable of a creative idea. But start by looking at your most “difficult” people from a different perspective.

You might have a new father who keeps pestering you to let him work from home, a senior manager who wants to spend one day a week supporting development work in Africa, a young team member who posts funny but caustic videos about his work life on YouTube, and a technology-crazy person who wants to hook up her tablet to the company network (even though it’s not authorised). They might create short-term headaches, but if you can see beyond that, they can lead the way in virtual work, corporate social responsibility, social media, and IT infrastructure, respectively.

Can you embrace – not just tolerate – these people? If so, you might be just the sort of leader we need today.


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