Special Note: Last week's post was Part 1 in a 3-part series. However, I have decided to include the remaining two parts in my new e-book Lessons Learned: 10 Stories of Wisdom Gained as a Parent and Coach. It should be finished soon and I look forward to sharing it with you!
As the title indicates, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership takes a different approach to developing leadership. Leading other people is a skill that can be developed and one of the best ways to do that is to learn what has worked for other people. However, you must not blindly adopt those methods and think they will make you successful. A leader will have to carefully look at the lessons learned from others and discern whether they will work in his situation or if they need to be adjusted. The following are key principles to being a contrarian leader.
Thing Gray and Think Free
Thinking gray means taking in all the information and not coming to a black-and-white conclusion until you need to. A leader must think gray for as long as possible until they know a decision needs to be made. Thinking free means breaking free from the shackles of conventional thinking. One of the ways you can do this is to come up with outrageous ideas and solutions and then forcing yourself to come up with reasons those ideas or solutions will work. In the end, these ideas might not be the most effective solution but how can we be innovative and come up with new ideas if we only believe in the ones previously accepted? Just remember that people were once ridiculed for thinking the Earth was round or that it revolved around the sun.
Listen First, Talk Later
Listening artfully means truly hearing what someone has to say and seeing the situation through their point of view without giving up your own perspective and still being able to make a judgment on your own. Just as you can think gray, you can listen gray by hearing stories, reports, and opinions without offering a response. A leader must be careful because the most dedicated and vocal participants of a constituency may not actually represent the collective thinking of the group at all. Contrarian leaders listen to their advisers, as well as unsolicited advice, but make their own decisions. They know at some point they will need to stop listening because it is time to make a decision.
Delegate and Delay Decisions
The author recommends that you should never make a decision that a subordinate is capable of making or one that can be delayed until a later time. If you are constantly making all the decisions in your organization then there really is no need to have any subordinates or assistants below you in the hierarchy. Allowing your assistants to make decisions empowers them and helps build their own leadership skills. It can also remove an unnecessary burden from your agenda. At the same time, when you do need to make a decision, it is wise to not instantly come to a conclusion if it is not necessary. Putting off a decision can allow you to think and listen gray while looking at the situation from all angles. Of course a leader cannot put off decisions forever, but having the wisdom to delay a decision will sometimes allow the situation to resolve itself without the leader even having to make a decision.
Know Which Hill You’re Willing to Die On
Know what you believe in, what you stand for, and what you are not willing to compromise even if it means losing your position as the leader. One of the author's best pieces of advice for leaders is to not disclose what hill you are willing to die on or where it is located, as your enemies can use this information to back you in a corner. While you do not have to let others know your hill, you must be rock solid and unwavering in the values that make up your hill. A leader may come to realize that the values of his community and environment do not align with the values of his own hill. In that case, it may be time to move on or it may be time to take a stand.
Work For Those Who Work For You
One of the first jobs of a leader is to make sure he has people on his team that are capable and effective. After that his main priority is to do everything he can to help his people succeed. Rather than the leader actually running an organization, it is the people and their actions that give motion and substance to the organization. The leader should focus on leading each individual person as best they can, which will lead to synergy that helps the group reach their potential.
You Can’t Copy Your Way to Excellence
Although the author provides numerous examples of leadership from himself and others, you cannot simply take the actions and decisions from the example and apply them to every situation. There is a science and an art to everything. Just like an athlete may have the technical knowledge of a sport, they still must learn to make adjustments and how to play through experience. This book can provide technical knowledge that can be applied by leaders, but each person must use the information to think creatively and try unconventional approaches. A key principle of contrarian leadership is to avoid groupthink and move beyond conventional thinking in order to bring about their personal creativity and greatness.
Author Steven Sample is the former president of the University of Southern California and the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is well-renowned for his work of transforming USC into a premier academic institution. This book has an abundant wealth of information for any leader, whether they are in an official position with a title or not. The author’s writing style keeps the reader engage while continuing to drip practical information throughout the chapters.
Sample is able to show that as a leader you do not always have to be in control in order to do your job. Your focus must be on the people in your organization. He illustrates that you can be in charge while still allowing people to do their jobs, but also being ready to make the decisions that a leader must make. Because it is the people of the organization that create its success, that is where the focus of the leader needs to be.
The best leaders are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones. The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership offers the platform for leaders to do just that. By reading this book they can learn that it is not only okay to think outside the box, but it is actually necessary in order for them to reach their full potential. I encourage you to think freely about how this book could actually help you as a leader, an employee, a parent, or a friend. Don’t think gray for too long and read this book!
Inspiring leaders to Rise Above and Enjoy the Journey!
Success vs. Achievement
Chop Wood Carry Water
Would You Rather...
First Things First
Do You Have Trouble Sleeping?
What is Your Plan?
One Word: Blessed
The Pursuit of Happyness
You Win in the Locker Room First
What Are You Training For?
Winning Is A Mindset
Always Be Faithful in Small Things
Are You a Leader?
What is Your Why?
I Love Watching You Play
Keep on Failing
The Coach is the Student
The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership
Now They Know
Esse Quam Videri
Powered by Purpose
Are You All In?
The Eyes of Your Heart
Sunrise or Sunset?
We Need Boundaries
What is Right Over Who is Right
Carry Your Bobsled
Do You Have Any Suggestions for Improvement?
Sing Out Loud
Be An Eagle
The Power of One
You Are a Lighthouse
I Hate The Grind
Closing the Gap
The Big Time
What Profit Are You Seeking?
A Better Life
Don't Do It For the Applause
A Harvest of Impact