In my new book, ‘The 9 Types of Difficult People’, I write about what can go wrong when someone who readily embraces change fails to bring all of their stakeholders along on the journey.
A Revolutionary is someone who:
★ Is usually a self-starting, enthusiastic person
★ Is great at discovering out new ideas and different approaches
★ Readily embraces change; and
★ Will push for fast and wide-ranging transformation regardless of its wider implications.
In the right circumstances, these are terrific qualities. But things can go wrong at work if this kind of person:
★ Exceeds the boundaries of what’s expected of them
★ Goes faster than their allies and supporters can deal with
★ Overlooks the slow and iterative political consensus building that other people often need before being ready to support and adopt new ideas.
At the time this article is published, there has been lots of coverage in the press about OpenAI founder Sam Altman’s firing by its board.
Altman’s career so far, his transition from selling Loop, joining Y Combinator and then to OpenAI, and the pace of change there, certainly share some of the characteristics of a Difficult Revolutionary that I’m looking out for.
According to The Guardian Sam Altman was fired because he “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board”. When staff warned that Altman’s departure could trigger OpenAI’s collapse, The Guardian reports, the board said this would “be consistent with the mission”.
Without knowing more about what’s happening behind those boardroom doors, we can’t say for sure if that failure to bring stakeholders along is exactly what’s happened here – but it looks like it might be!
☞ So, if you’re on the Board of an organisation with a Revolutionary at its helm, or if you’re a Revolutionary yourself, what should you do to create great working relationships?
🙃 More than anything, leaders of a Revolutionary need to be working hard to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Checking that their agendas are aligned, discussing what is and isn’t acceptable to aim for, and making sure the wrong bridges don’t get burned. That leadership is vital in keeping a Revolutionary’s efforts directed at the right common ground.
🙃 Revolutionaries themselves are often surprised that others don’t share all of their zeal. So my favourite tip for them is to learn the influencing, alliance- and consensus-building skills that will attract all their stakeholders to the cause.
Viva la revolución!
Here’s the link to The Guardian article referenced above: