Tap into Your Inner Rebel to be a More Impactful Leader

In many cultures, women are encouraged to maintain the status quo and play by the rules. Yet, to be an influential leader who leaves a lasting, meaningful impact, we must be willing to break this worn-out mindset.

Influential Leaders Channel Their Inner Rebel

In her book, Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life, author Francesca Gino explores the characteristics that help effective “rebels” to stand out in today’s ever-changing, highly competitive business world.

As a behavioral scientist and professor at Harvard Business School, Gino’s work is gleaned from long-term experience examining rebels all over the globe. Her work discovered that the rebel – who throughout history has been called an agitator or a revolutionary – possesses what she defines as “rebel talent.”

Rebels have an inner defiance of the oft heard phrase, “It’s always been done this way,” and it’s that fire and spark that we must learn to embrace in ourselves to become the dynamic leaders our world needs now more than ever before.

“Rebels and non-conformists are often the pioneers and designers of change.”

-Indira Gandhi

Break the Rules to Effectively Navigate Today’s Stormy Seas

As we grew up, we might remember being cautioned against challenging the status quo. We may have been told that to get ahead, we shouldn’t “rock the boat” too much, that it was better to fit in or “just get along” rather than to oppose convention.

Yet Gino surprised herself with the discovery of the value and meaning that a rebel talent brings to life. In attempting to understand breaking rules in the workplace, she found that being a rebel actually enhances every aspect of our lives.

From her research, she determined that people who broke the rules did so in ways that resulted in positive changes in their organizations and in the world. We, too, can let our inner rebel qualities emerge – and use this “positive deviance” to break rules so that a favorable outcome is achieved.

Our studies found that nonconformity leads to positive inferences of status and competence when it is associated with deliberateness and intentionality…

– Silvia Bellezza, Francesca Gino and Anat Keinan in “The Surprising Benefits of Nonconformity

In fact, when one of the article’s authors in the above quote donned a pair of red sneakers while teaching a class to business execs, the students assumed the professor was a “well-published scholar and high up in the hierarchy of her department.”

In today’s ever-changing world, where business is highly competitive and social media can damage careers in mere seconds, we can call on our inner rebel to lead, inspire and create innovative changes – akin to the rebels throughout history – think Rosario Córdoba Garcés, Sabrina Bouzidi, Isabelle Kocher, or Mary Barra, who came before us.

Envision what your inner rebel can do for you and those you lead…

“Impossible is only an opinion.” 
―Anik Singal

Let Your Inner Rebel Take the Road Less Traveled in Leadership

We know that uncomfortable feeling of going against the norm. Yet defying the so-called norm and letting our inner rebel lead the way can prove to be beneficial. When our rebel persona guides us to venture down the road less traveled, it can make all the difference.

General Director of the BBC Greg Dyke took over the company in troublesome times. Traditional business advice would have led him to draw up a standard plan for the future and figure out how to achieve the goals that were set forth.

Instead, his inner rebel inspired him to spend five months in various BBC offices throughout the UK – even dropping in on employees dining in the cafeteria – and asking for their advice on what the BBC needed.

The result? He gained employees’ respect by asking for their input – and when he formulated his vision plan for the company, employees were enthusiastic to help out.

What are the principles of a rebel leader? Gino highlights several key characteristics:

  • Stay curious, open to new ideas
  • Seek out those who disagree
  • Pursue conversation, don’t stifle it
  • Let authenticity shine
  • Discover freedom in obstructions
  • Be willing to get those hands dirty
  • See mistakes as potential breakthroughs

The Power of Expanding Our Leadership Influence

No matter what our job titles are, broadening our influence has powerful effects. How?

Being good at what we do – and doing our work with vigor – shows those in our organization that we’re confident, capable, skilled. “Being good at your job is one of the basic elements of influence,” according to Melissa Drake, founder of Collaborative AF.

How we share our expertise is powerful, too. Are others in your organization comfortable in seeking your assistance? Or are you viewed as overbearing or “too much?”

Our relationships with others are key. Knowing those around us on a personal, “human” level so that we can effectively relate to them fosters strong connections. “It allows people to be seen and heard as individuals and who they are,” explains Drake.

Being human – and humble – and letting those around you see you for your strengths and weaknesses – is another crucial aspect to effective leadership. Our team members and colleagues will begin to see us as ‘real’ and be more inclined to develop positive relationships.

We should also consider embracing another aspect of ourselves that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with rebellion: our intuition. Blending logic and reasoning with our inner instincts may certainly rock the status quo – and that’s exactly what’s needed to drive meaningful change.

By letting our inner rebel lead us in making sometimes uncomfortable choices or difficult decisions that ultimately result in positive change, we can transform our careers – and the teams we lead – from ordinary to extraordinary.

“Rebels are the people who refuse the seen for the unseen.”

-Anne Douglas Sedgwick

Want more rule-breaking ideas and innovative tips to amp up your leadership potential? Sign up for our Weekly Bolder Moves, delivered fresh & free to your inbox each week.