In the face of command and control, there are those who are still willing to share ideas, speak out, offer suggestions – and these folks are leaders. Even if only thought leaders, they are vocalizing the desire to change the status quo. In this sense, leadership is not based on rank and title. In many organizations, however, contrarians are suppressed and it’s easy to see that those who reach high ranks are able to get there because they followed orders, which is quite far from being contrary.
Being contrary is often perceived as not quite fitting in or downright argumentative. Even if these folks are the thought leaders and innovators within the organization, their demeanor often inhibits progress or acceptance of their ideas. The value of their ideas should never be discounted simply because they were expressed poorly, however.
As usual, the problem is one of leadership and coaching. The role of true leaders is to find these innovators and enable them to see their ideas come to fruition.
This is not to say that all people who are difficult and argumentative are simply leaders lacking in the finer points of persuasion. Some are just plain difficult and argumentative. Once again, the role of leaders, coaches and mentors (as opposed to “managers”) is to determine which is which, eliminate those things that make the difficult people merely difficult, and enable the ideas of the difficult, but merely frustrated, to come into reality.
A Manager will do just that – manage the vocal and disgruntled. Usually be finding a way to quiet them – either through ignoring the problem until it goes away, active censorship, or outright dismissal. Leaders and coaches, however, identify the strengths of the person’s perspective and facilitate its emergence.