Having individuals in your organization that is willing to go against the grain and be a maverick is essential for making a difference. Because courage is essential to reform. It happens all the time when an innovative company gets big enough they start to develop bureaucracies and stop innovating. Which is where your courageous employees come in. These individuals drive change. Encouraging these individuals to keep moving will develop a much-needed culture change in big organizations. In fact, these individuals break bureaucracies, make necessary changes and inspire a bias for action. Let’s discuss each of these in more detail below!
Robert Gates wrote a really good book about this called A Passion for Leadership. If you haven’t read it, you must! An absolutely fabulous book by a fabulous individual and leader. But in the book, he talks about the keys to breaking bureaucracies. One of the key things he says is it takes a courageous person to listen to everyone, sit back and wait for his time to execute his change. Equally important is executing that change also takes courage. That’s because the senior leaders in these bureaucracies are very resistant to change. The Senior leaders in these organizations don’t want to see the “empires” that they have built fall.
The reason for breaking bureaucracy is really to build that creative culture that drives innovation. In fact, an environment where the iterative building is the center is what pushes innovation. Which in turn breaks bureaucracy. But taking that stand and building your iterative culture takes courage. Because you can bet that those senior leaders will look to keep the status quo. That’s how they hold their status and what makes them useful. You change it to something they don’t know they are no longer useful to the organization. So, be courageous and find ways to break bureaucracy.
Inspire a Bias For Action
What this essentially means is that you have to take action on something you believe will help your organization grow. Whether it works or fails it doesn’t matter. The one thing that does matter is that you tried and took action to instill some kind of process for improvement. Most individuals will spend most of their careers without taking any type of action. Because of that nothing ever changes and you will see certain parts of an organization stall. This is called bureaucracy. The more you try the more experience you have in making decisions and learning about the world. In the end, you are building up the courage to do something bigger.
I can’t tell you how many times I took action and I failed. In fact, I have only done a few things that have worked. But for me the more I took action, the more I failed, which helped me build up the strength to continue to take action. It is important to understand that every decision won’t be a good one. But if you are afraid of making decisions or taking action you will never innovate or make any positive change for your organization.
Make Necessary Change
The first two things we discussed in this article are vital for this one. If you don’t have the courage to think big and have a bias for action you will never make the necessary change that needs to be made. Once you build up the courage to decide that you are going to break bureaucracy and have a bias for action, then and only then, will you be ready for that change. That was my whole shtick with my time over at the 3d Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR). I came in knowing I wasn’t going to get beat by bureaucracy and I made many decisions in order to instill change into the organization. I definitely wasn’t right all the time, but when I was we were able to take some massive action. Which lead to a lot of changes not just to the 3d MLR and Marine Corps, but to the whole indo-pacific.
In my experience, being the courageous one is where you can find true joy in your work. It allows you too prideful that you made the necessary change that your organization needed. As discussed, sometimes the courage you need is to just ask! There is a lot of courage needed to just ask someone for help, a meeting, or even mentorship. But doing those little things are critical for growth. Because courage is essential to reform you have to look at yourself and the people you work for and inspire that change. Breaking bureaucracies, and inspiring a bias for action will encourage that necessary change to be made!