This post was originally posted on my developing-leadership.com site in 2007. The contents still ring true - so here it is again with a slight update with reference to my new thinking! #ThrowBackMaverick!

When passion is destructive

What happens if you have a destructive maverick?

Get the passion right and the rest will follow - Churchill

No-one has ever followed a leader that didn't have passion. Passion for who they are, what they believe in and the direction that they want to go. Even quiet leaders have passion, they may not have the oratory skills of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr or President Obama, but they have, nevertheless, the ability to stir their followers to a cause - a vision to strive for.

So passion is a good thing … it helps us keep going when times are hard, rallies others to a cause, it builds global brands and companies (like Steve Jobs with Apple) … without passion a leader has no followers.

When passion is applied without good intent it can rapidly become destructive. This is especially true, if it's an Extreme Maverick holding that passion. We know that mavericks are generally very passionate people and can become very focused on singular activities. This is because they are Execution and Output driven.

All mavericks have vision, strength of purpose, drive and direction - to the goals that they want to achieve. If their goals are not aligned to the organisation, then real sparks can ensue. Extreme Mavericks will cause complete havoc and Socialised Mavericks will leave if they do not get a sense that it's worth their while seeking change.

Troublesome Talent (which are Mavericks that are starting their journey to becoming a Socialised Maverick, but still retain the Extreme Maverick's traits), are perhaps the ones that organisations have the most trouble with. This is because the Socialised Maverick will have left, or is working with the organisation to make changes.

The Extreme Maverick will become so polarising - a decision will be made. However the Troublesome Talent will be a type of hybrid, struggling to do the right thing with the huge talent that they have.

So how does an organisation stop the Maverick's passion from making them a destructive maverick?

You must give them a compelling reason to change their behaviour. Mavericks only change when there is an overriding imperative to do so. In fact this is perhaps the most important thing that an organisation can do if they are emotional aware when they do so.

The organisation needs to understand the needs of their destructive maverick. Some questions that they should ask themselves include:

  • What type of Maverick do they have?
  • What perception is the Maverick holding?
  • Is the organisation trying to manage the Maverick or lead him?

Troublesome Talent also needs to see the cost of their behaviour, both in financial and human terms. Give the problem that they cause a compelling reason to change. Let them reach their own conclusion, of the consequences of their actions and then ask them, how does the result that they see, achieve their end goal?

Passion is a good thing, except when it becomes destructive. Maverick Leadership is finding a way to harness the ability of others to achieve their aims and your own.

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