Tag Archives: mavericks

The one for those who manage mavericks

Well not strictly mavericks – what I really mean is intrapreneurs. Those who operate as entrepreneurs but within organisations. If you’ve been reading this blog from the start you’ll know the whole purpose behind writing it was to find some individuals who may be described as intrapreneurs and get in contact with them for interviews. Now having finished the whole research process it seemed appropriate to share at least some of what I found.

One of the my research interests was discovering the impact of the line manager on the individual intrapreneur. What I found was broadly there were three modes of behaviour that supported intrapreneurial behaviour. The list of behaviours that DIDN’T support intrapreneurs was SO long that it would be a whole project in itself but they can be summarised as ‘being a risk adverse, arse covering scaredy cat’ although I wouldn’t have submitted that to uni!!

So the three types are:

1. Sponsor

Provide organisational support (as opposed to personal support). Are usually a very senior manager. Help get hold of resources or keep those you’ve already got. Protect you from the cogs of the machine (governance). Manage senior stakeholders and calm them down when they get to flapping. Hold back the tide of resistance until you can get some success

2. Mentor

Provide personal support. Help the individual cope with the ups and downs of an initiative especially for those who are used to having results to keep themselves calm. Encouragements – lots of it. Help the individual make sense of the nonsense going on in their heads. Sometimes just sit and listen (and sooth with wine)

3. Licensor

Combine many of the things in both 1 and 2 but significantly have been involved in the genesis of the idea/concept/product/initiative so are likely to be more comfortable doing some of the hand holding/tide holding mentioned above.

So there it is – about 1200 words of academese in 3 short paragraphs and I’ll spare you from the rest for now at least. However I will leave you with something to think about – if you are leading people who are operating outside of ‘normal’ corporate operations with the intent of improving the organisation (i.e. mavericks as opposed to rogues who’s intent is less clear) then think about which if any of these roles you play…

Oh and for anyone interested this is a word cloud of my project just in case you’re having trouble sleeping at any time!

Project Wordle



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The one with rogues and mavericks

Early in September I was fortunate enough to take part in the DriveThruHR blog radio show. The show is hosted by William Tincup (or at least was the day I took part) and fortunately they’ve had some website issues so the show I took part in is no longer available to listen to (breathes out).

The show is fairly free form and the only pointer you are given in advance is to think about the “one thing you are most thinking about most”. I talked about developing leaders in a global business as it was the thing I was thinking most about at the time. Right at the end of the show, William asked me a question about rogues and mavericks and to be honest I wish he’d asked it much earlier as the conversation started to get really good….

Ever since that day i’ve been wanting to write a post about rogues and mavericks but it wouldn’t quite come together in my head and then I saw a video clip last week amongst the tributes to Steve Jobs and, well, you’ll see!

If you look at dictionary definitions for rogue they are:



1. An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.

2. One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.

3. A wandering beggar; a vagrant.

4. A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.

5. An organism, especially a plant, that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.


1. Vicious and solitary. Used of an animal, especially an elephant.

2. Large, destructive, and anomalous or unpredictable: a rogue wave; a rogue tornado.

3. Operating outside normal or desirable controls: “How could a single rogue trader bring down an otherwise profitable and well-regarded institution?”(Saul Hansell).

And whilst I believe in an organisational context the 3rd adjective point is most relevant (operating outside normal controls) I do kind of like the 1st noun point (scoundrel or rascal). Having asked a few people what comes to mind when you say the word rogue the responses are usually Nick Leeson, Jérôme Kerviel (who lost £4bn of Societe Generale’s money) or more recently Kweku Adoboli who is involved in an investigation around the loss of $2bn of UBS’s money.

If you attempt a similar exercise for maverick the definition is:



1. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Agriculture) (in US and Canadian cattle-raising regions) an unbranded animal, esp a stray calf


a.  a person of independent or unorthodox views

b.  (as modifiera maverick politician

Having completed a similar exercise in asking a few people what comes to mind, the wags came up with both Tom Cruise in Top Gun and Mel Gibson as the eponymous Bret Maverick (James Garner for the purists!) but the serious answers started to come back and included people like James Dyson, Richard Branson, Bill Gates (v1.0 not the establishment figure he became!) and one that made me smile was Boris Johnson.

The difficulty I have is in defining the difference between the two. When does a person of independent views or unorthodox views (a maverick) become a rogue? There is a trait described in several psychometric instruments around rule conformance and the output at one end of the trait is something along the lines of “will break rules to achieve results”.  But is everyone who breaks a rule a rogue? Are some rules OK to break? Is it OK to bend rules as long as you get the right outcome?

I don’t have the answer and would be interested in view points but the only thoughts I have to stoke the debate is that there is something in there about intent (is the intent self interest or the greater good?) and a response that came out regularly in my Masters research – breaking process rules is very different to breaking policy rules.

Oh and thing that gave me a moment of clarity was this…

So are the mavericks just the crazy ones?


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