If you stopped someone in the street and asked them what a maverick was, they would probably pause a moment, smile and say ‘Tom Cruise in Top Gun’. If you asked them to describe a maverick at work, they would probably frown and describe a man that is arrogant, blunt, offensive, and good at his job. It’s a dichotomy that both impressions or perceptions can be true. It can be confusing, are we supposed to like or dislike the maverick?
The maverick paradox is when people demand that mavericks change the world and then hate them when they do. Mavericks could be described as people that combine contradictory qualities and are therefore paradoxical in nature. Most mavericks are an enigma and, as such, are often misunderstood, especially when it comes to interpreting what they are thinking and the reasons why they are doing something. Therefore, people are often surprised when they learn that there is more than one type of maverick, with each type presenting different behaviors, motivations, and varying levels of morality!
Many people are surprised to hear that maverick behavior can be learned and can become an asset in the workplace. Not all mavericks are created equal, although all mavericks share a certain commonality amongst themselves.
Since 2005 I’ve defined a maverick as someone who is ‘wilfully independent’. This definition always makes me smile because, in my imagination, the maverick is standing there, looking angelic, with a smirk on his face and more than a hint of devilment in his behavior.
The two types of mavericks:
The Extreme Maverick
The Extreme Maverick is always male. They are characterized by their exploitation of maverick power, their manipulation of others, their belief in relative truth, and their punishing others harshly for non-compliance. Generally, they are not concerned with being trustworthy but are happy to be trusted. This kind of maverick is likely to be highly unethical and not concerned with the moral dimension.
Extreme Mavericks suffer little guilt and almost no conscience. If the other person is hurting, this can be rationalized and justified so that in most situations, the Extreme Maverick has little cognitive dissonance.
The Socialised Maverick
The Socialised Maverick can be male or alpha female and can harness Maverick’s power to influence others. They believe in objective truth, will seek to influence compliance ethically, will work on character to be trustworthy, and are likely to be highly ethical. They will seek cooperation and will be concerned with the moral dimension.
A Socialised Maverick can internally absorb causing someone pain, and they will
feel bad about it, wondering if they should have done something different. They will consider this question, at least for a little while, before justification sets in. They can, if
desired, reduce any cognitive dissonance to dissipate any bad feelings they are having.
The Socialised Maverick will experience guilt or a twang of conscience but can usually work through it by dint of their analytical and practical nature. A Socialised Maverick is a pragmatist at heart.
Who is usually seen to be a maverick?
Unsurprisingly, mavericks are usually male or a high Alpha female, regardless of whether they are extroverted or introverted. It is important to note that female mavericks are not usually treated with the same deference or leniency that male mavericks attract. This is often because people expect and accept men to be assertive, self-confident, and have an all-consuming passion for what they want. When a woman acts like this, she is believed to be going against her ‘nurturing nature’ and is usually denigrated. I believe this is the reason that there are more socialized female mavericks than extreme female mavericks in the world today. The world will not tolerate extreme women, so maverick women have adapted and have become Socialised Mavericks.
The Maverick Journey
The maverick journey never truly ends, although it can plateau at times. Therefore, a maverick can be thought of as a wolf brought into the house to be domesticated, like a dog. Whilst it may become more socialized, it will always remain an animal that may turn wild at any moment. With enough pressure (internal or external) the extreme side of the Socialised Maverick will resurface, surprising many. Perhaps the best way to describe the temperament of a Socialised Maverick is one of a sleeping volcano or a domesticated wolf.
Maverick leaders and maverick thinking can be extremely valuable to an organization as mavericks challenge the status quo, engage others and drive change. If the right kind of maverick leader is in place who considers ethical and moral practices, businesses can achieve great success.
About the Author
Judith Germain is the Leading Authority on Maverick Leadership. She is a consultant, mentor, trainer, speaker, and author. This is an adapted extract from Judith’s book, The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders.