There are positive mavericks and negative mavericks.
Positive mavericks courteously challenge policies and practices and propose reasonable alternatives. If they lose, they keep trying to string together the arguments and alliances that will permit them to win. Negative mavericks are discourteous, propose unrealistic alternatives, and then denounce anyone who fails to support their proposals.
Positive mavericks may think that the establishment is crazy or ill informed, but they don’t reveal those feelings, because they don’t want to be rude. They know rudeness is unkind and that it reduces effectiveness. Negative mavericks exude contempt for the reasoning and competence of their opponents. They don’t hide it that they think you’re an idiot.
Positive mavericks think outside the mainstream, but are interested in results. Negative mavericks think outside the mainstream but are interested in being right. To them, achieving results is less important than gaining an acknowledgement that they are right. After all, achieving results often involves compromise and they regard compromise as a sell-out.
Positive mavericks seek to persuade. Negative mavericks want to educate. Persuasion involves bringing another person to your point of view. Education involves providing information to the ignorant. Negative mavericks find it impossible to believe that anyone who is well-informed could disagree with their position unless there is a failure to communicate or—this is a favorite conclusion—the other person has bad motives.
[See 7 gifts to beware.]
Positive mavericks recognize that people can disagree without having bad motives. Negative mavericks see greed, naked self-interest, manipulation, and evil lurking behind intelligent opposition.
Organizations need mavericks. In some cases, having a negative maverick is better than having no mavericks at all. If your organization is fortunate, however, it will recruit and keep a healthy number of positive mavericks who are able to challenge assumptions and influence others.
Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.