Byron's Babbles

Leaders As Non-Conformists

51qo9POttyL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This morning I just started reading the incredible book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. As a card carrying non-conformist I am really taking in all the stories and research in this book. It also goes right along Lesson #6 in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. This lesson titled “Hooks and Loops” was about George de Mestral. Ok… be honest, do you know who he is? Or, what he is famous for? I didn’t until I read this lesson.

George loved to hike, but hated coming back with burrs stuck all over his clothes. He decided one day to study the burrs under a microscope and discovered that they were made up of little hooks that would, well, hook the fabric of your clothes. He was struck by the idea that he could create a hook and loop fastener out of fabric. Long story short, everyone thought he was crazy and even ridiculed him about his idea. He finally found a French fabric maker to help him manufacture a prototype. His original prototype did not hold up to continual use, but then after more research and trial he learned he could treat nylon with infrared light and it would hold up under use. He then combined the words “velvet” and “crochet” to, yep you guessed it, name the product we all use today – Velcro®.img_2083

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

We are all faced with opportunities dressed up as problems or challenges. How we deal with those opportunities is up to us. I prefer to run toward those challenges and face them head on. Think about it – George de Mestral found a tremendous opportunity that literally changed the world in an annoyance during hiking.

“We are continuously faced with opportunities disguised as insolvable problems.”

~ John Parker Stewart

As an artistic leader, innovator, and creative thinker I strive  to bring out the creative impulses in others in education. I am always struck by all the conformity in and around the workplace in our culture. This comes from organizations developing a fear based culture. People are afraid to express opinions and ideas that may be ridiculed, outshine the boss or group, or lead into uncharted territory where there is no quantifiable immediate answer. I guess I really am a non-conformist because I want us going into uncharted territory – isn’t that where discoveries are made?
I want to continue to be what George Bernard Shaw called an “unreasonable” man and adapt the world to me. I also want to develop future leaders to be non-conformists and unreasonable as well. We need our future leaders ready to make progress. In order to do this, let’s keep asking ourselves:
  • What do our people need in order to resolve challenges?
  • Who is the best qualified to help those we lead?
  • What is our attitude toward new ideas that are non-conformist?
  • What is our attitude when faced with opposition to our own ideas?
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