10 Ways to Become a Contrarian Leader

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Nice leaders finish last, if nice means agreeable. If all you do is agree, go home. You aren’t contributing.

“There is a condition afflicting organizations that often goes undiagnosed because it is perceived as benign. In truth, it is corrosive.

I call it the ‘the disease of niceness.’” John Baldoni in, “The Leaders Pocket Guide.”

Nice leaders:

  1. Wrongly believe “getting along” is the goal. “Can’t we all get along?” is great if you love mediocrity.
  2. Can’t tolerate conflict. If you can’t tolerate conflict, you can’t lead. Successful leaders thrive in tense situations.
  3. Need to be liked.

Substantive contribution demands disagreement.

Contrarian leaders:

  1. Believe getting it done is the goal.
  2. Think tension and conflict are tools not distractions.
  3. Instigate conflict rather hiding from it. They stir the pot.

The scale:

On the scale of “nice to contrarian,” most of you fall on the nice side. You’ll get along just fine in many organizations. But, you’ll never be an exceptional leader if all you do is agree.

Exceptional leaders cross the line
from agreeable to contrarian.

10 ways to become contrarian:

  1. Keep smiling, for goodness sake.
  2. Reject the idea that anger and contrarian are the same thing. Don’t let anger be your only motivation to address tough issues.
  3. Ask tough questions and make challenging statements without threatening.
  4. Embrace politeness, always. (Thanks for this one John Baldoni.)
  5. Watch your body language. Maintain welcoming eye contact and open postures.
  6. Convince everyone you support them. Agree, affirm, and support, a lot. Contrarian leaders finish last, if contrarian means constant disagreement.
  7. Keep listening. Contrarian doesn’t mean “my way or the highway.”
  8. Practice clarity and mutual accountability. Have others hold you accountable to the same degree you hold them. Contrarian isn’t about being aloof or superior.
  9. Always show respect.
  10. Maintain optimism. Contrary isn’t negative.

Note: I”m not encouraging bullying. Bullies aren’t leaders.

How can you move toward contrarian leadership, today?