Have you noticed how we are supposed to be “positive” all the time? We are supposed to “buy in,” be a “team player,” and “look at the upside.” If we don’t we are labeled as malcontents and even Un-American. No one likes a gadfly.

I am, you can ask anyone, an extremely positive person, most of the time; but I value people who look at status quo and call Bullshit. Creative people should do that and I am not opposed to being the person who points out when group think has taken hold of an organization and endangered its very existence. Sometimes things aren’t as positive as people would like them to be and pointing that out is a dangerous chore.

The value of creative people is that they see the world just a little differently than everyone else, they ask questions, they say “what if” and they anticipate problems that the positive thinkers overlook in their zeal to be ultra successful. A leader who rules by fiat and overpowers his organization is not an effective if he encourages group think. Ego is a dangerous thing.

Luckily for me, as a financial guy, I am allowed to be contrary, perhaps no system in the world acknowledges and rewards contrarianism as well as capitalism. The investor who spots flaws in the grand plan and questions the delusions of the crowd is often rewarded… that is: if he is right. (Being right is more important than being contrary for the fun of it; which I also enjoy.)

So much of American culture is based around “feeling good” that we often let feeling good count more than viewing reality as reality.  Not that the creative person has to be antagonistic or uncooperative; there is a fine line between being a malcontent and an effective team member and it is the job of leadership to make sure that the people who ask really good questions are not labeled as troublemakers. There should always be room for someone who has an impassioned position that runs contrary to the norms of a group. Passion is a powerful thing. Someone who fights for the rights of the bullied, the disadvantaged, and the disenfranchised is a hero, not a malcontent. Someone who points out that an organization’s course of action is impractical, immoral, or just a plain old bad idea is someone who should be given a voice, if not influence.

The thermostat in my house is more than a thermometer. More than just tell  the temperature, it also regulates the temperature because it is empowered to do so. A creative member of an organization should be empowered to be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Here’s to those of you who like to ask questions and do so from a place of love and concern, those of you believe that momentum of group think works best when all the questions and concerns are addressed instead of being plowed under. And, here’s to the leaders who encourage dissent, frank discussion, and then make decisions based on all the facts. These are the people that lead people’s hearts.

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