Mavericks Explained- What being a maverick is all about?

“The whole world loves a maverick and the whole world wants the maverick to achieve something nobler than simple rebellion!” — Kevin Patterson

By Patrick Driessen

A lot of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, such as Steve Jobs (Apple) and Richard Branson (Virgin) are often marked as ‘mavericks’. However; apparently most people do not fully understand the term ‘maverick’, so in this blog post I’d like to explain it in more detail.

What/Who is a maverick?

The word maverick is defined by Wikipedia as “an unbranded range animal”, “One who does not abide by rules” or “one who creates or uses unconventional and/or controversial ideas or practices”.
The word derives from Texan rancher and politician Sam Maverick, who allowed his unbranded cattle to roam semi-wild instead of branding them and penning them in fenced-in ranges. That sort of independent spirit describes the companies, entrepreneurs and business leaders being qualified as maverick.

What are maverick leaders and entrepreneurs?

Mavericks are talented, truthful to the point of bluntness, visionary with an uncanny ability to exactly see the hole in the argument that is being presented to them, and how to fix it. Mavericks break rules, not out of spite but because the rules don’t work. They are highly goal orientated, charismatic, and will question anything and everything!

Mavericks do not compromise their standards to fit in, and therefore cannot be managed conventionally. Despite the fact that they often do not fully utilize their talents effectively, Mavericks tend to be the top performers in companies and within a business.

Mavericks are those individuals who eagerly make business decisions that fly in the face of business-as-usual. They deliberately turn traditions up-side-down or shut them out altogether, looking instead for new “disruptive” ideas and creative people, and in doing so find themselves on a joyous ride to success.

The maverick comes from all types of professions from professional partnerships like accountancy or law, corporate life or individuals running their own business.

A maverick personality is one where they are wilfully independent all the time and in all circumstances. They are keen to make their mark and do things their way and often blaze innovation and lateral thinking to the projects and problems that they are working on. They often exasperate the people around them and peers can feel that they can’t keep up or hurt if an objective comment from a maverick is delivered in their usual blunt and brutally honest way.

They may challenge the status-quo and insist that the company works with a strong sense of integrity. They take risks that conformist employees shirk at, and push harder and seek challenges that others feel are ‘insane’ or ‘impossible to achieve’.

These Mavericks deal with the same four timeless challenges that face organizations of every size and leaders in every field: setting strategy, unleashing new ideas, connecting with customers, and helping their best people achieve great results. It is HOW Mavericks do it that makes the real difference!

Maverick’s Unique Value

When it comes to thriving in a hyper-competitive marketplace, “playing it safe” is no longer playing it smart. In an economy defined by overcapacity, oversupply, and utter sensory overload -an economy in which everyone already has more than enough of whatever it is you’re selling-, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for a truly distinctive set of ideas about where your company and industry can and should be going. You can’t do big things as a competitor if you’re content with doing things a little better than the competition.

The best way to out-perform the competition is to out-think the competition. Maverick companies aren’t always the largest in their field; maverick entrepreneurs don’t always make the cover of the business magazines (they tend to be witty and often media shy). But Mavericks do the work that matters most: the work of originality, creativity, and experimentation. They demonstrate that you can build companies around high ideals and fierce competitive ambitions, that the most powerful way to create economic value is to embrace a set of values that go beyond just amassing power, and that business, at its best, is too exciting, too important, and too much fun to be left to the dead hand of business as usual!

Mavericks are always focused on rethinking competition, reinventing innovation, reconnecting with customers, and redesigning the workplace, thus accelerating the growth of businesses and the human capital within and around the organizations they work with.

How do Mavericks work?

Mavericks are easily bored and need to be given constant challenges to ensure that they are as productive and engaged as they could be! They tend to come up with innovative solutions and their way of working didn’t fit the established corporate norms. The maverick is unafraid to question authority, buck trends or do what is ‘expected’ and understands that they are a square peg in a round hole.

The maverick selects and hires exceptional people directly to work with them. They are keen to keep the fact that they are working with these exceptional individuals confidential from their employers.

Mavericks are truly talented individuals and are able to drag the world forward with their insights and abilities!

How To Work With Mavericks

Hans Finzel in his book “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make” provides the following ideas to assist organizations in working with Mavericks:
* Legitimate mavericks who can bring you into the future:

  • care not just for their own ideas but for the goals of the organization;
  • are making a difference in their position;
  • are willing to earn the right to be heard;
  • are influencing others and producing good results.

* How to encourage the true mavericks who can help you:

  • Give them a long tether — they need space to soar.
  • Put them in charge of something they can really own.
  • Listen to their ideas and give them time to grow.
  • Let them work on their own if they wish.
  • Leave them alone and give them time to blossom.

* How to stifle the Mavericks in your midst:

  • Create as many layers of management as possible for decision making.
  • Keep looking over their shoulders.
  • Make your policy manual as thick as possible.
  • Send everything to committees for deliberation
  • Make them wait.

Mavericks are essential in every organization. Giving them the encouragement and space to contribute makes all the difference. Mavericks matter… because they bring us the future.

“Organizations change of necessity and for a variety of reasons. But the single biggest impetus for change in an organization tends to be a new leader in a key job… someone with a fresh perspective who sees that the status quo is unacceptable.” — John Kotter (“What Leaders Really Do”)

Inspiring Mavericks
To me inspirational maverick leaders and entrepreneurs are:

Further Reading:

For more insights about Mavericks, I can highly recommend the book Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win.

I hope you’ll benefit from these maverick insights. If you discover a maverick within your organization, I hope you’ll nurture him/her and allow the maverick to do what they are best at: (re)inventing and building the best and most successful organizations!

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