Monomaniacs As Leaders

Posted: April 19, 2012 in Leadership
Tags: , , , ,

visionary leaders

Some say there is something other-worldly about great visionaries. They just don’t seem normal when compared to the rest of mankind.

Peter Drucker, the man who according to a Bloomberg Businessweek article in 2005, “Invented Management”, passed away that year. He was 95, but enjoyed an extraordinary life whose influence is still alive and well in every major corporation today.

One of his liberally quoted passages from a best-selling management book on leadership struck me as particularly appropriate to any industry:

“The single-minded ones, the monomaniacs, are the only true achievers. The rest, the ones like me, may have more fun; but they fritter themselves away . . . Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.” ~ Peter Drucker, Adventures of a Bystander

The term monomania connotes bad visuals for most of us. But the word simply defines someone, usually a visionary, who is single-minded and near impossible to divert from their self-directed trajectory through life. They get things done – big things the rest of us still dream about. They aren’t always easy to get along with though. Probably because they only have one gear: Drive!

They are often accused of being overachievers. What does that mean? Is it more reasonable to “underachieve”? We all want to succeed. We set regular goals, try to visualize positive things, manage our time to maximize our output, exercise, drink lots of water; you know, follow the prescribed path outlined in all those success books.

However, high performance psychologist, Professor John Eliot, says his research into successful leadership simply doesn’t support most store-bought remedies. “Such self-improvement balderdash will do nothing but relegate you to a career in mediocrity,” Eliot contends. “To see what you’re really capable of, you have to think abnormally!”

Unconventional wisdom? Perhaps. But herd mentality simply put on steroids probably isn’t that ground breaking afterall.

Warren Bennis, one of my personal favorite thinkers and authors on the importance of leadership wrote in his book, Organizing Genius: The Secrets Of Creative Collaboration:

“Too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted people never are. They have unique talents. Such people cannot be forced into roles they are not suited for, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow great people to do the work they were born to do.” ~ Warren Bennis

I think monomaniacs are those people. The ones who have been set loose and supported in their mission to bring something unique into the world. If you’re lucky enough to have such a person leading your company, or working for you, they may not always get along with you and don’t always play well with others either, but they will make amazing stuff happen.

If it’s the right stuff, it may end up changing the world.


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