Book excerpt: The Maverick Personality

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Work with a maverick personality? Judith Germain’s new book could help.

In any discussion on mavericks, it is important to acknowledge two things:

  1. There are two types of mavericks; Socialised and Extreme
  1. There is a difference between those who have a maverick personality and those that have maverick traits. To truly understand the maverick mindset there is a need to separate these two concepts.

The big five personality traits

The most popular personality theory right now is the ‘Big 5 Personality traits’ (Wikipedia):

  1. Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs consistent/cautious)
  2. Conscientiousness (efficient/organised vs easy-going/careless)
  3. Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs solitary/reserved)
  4. Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs analytical/detached
  5. Emotional stability (secure/confident vs sensitive/nervous)

If there are no strong preferences in all of the five dimensions, then an individual’s personality can be viewed in one of two ways:

  1. Adaptable, moderate, reasonable
  2. Unprincipled, inscrutable, calculating

When considering the maverick personality, we can see that mavericks score highly in the ‘openness to experience’ trait. This usually demonstrates that mavericks are likely to be more creative, curious, and aware of their feelings than other people.

They are more likely to hold unconventional beliefs or ideas and prefer novelty over routine. Mavericks hate any routine determined by others with a passion and are always searching for new challenges.

If unchallenged at work, a Socialised Maverick will disengage with the organisation, withdraw their effort, and look for challenges elsewhere. Eventually the unchallenged and bored Socialised Maverick will leave the organisation.

It is likely that if an Extreme Maverick is unchallenged the maverick will start to unravel things to cause some excitement for themselves. This unravelling could be a colleague’s emotional state as the maverick manipulates them into doing things that the maverick wants; or the maverick could break something at work, so that they can fix it.

Extreme Mavericks will always place their own self-interest at a premium to others and are not shy in showing or expressing this.

This enables them to do something interesting and challenging for a while. It is common for a maverick to set in motion a cycle of fixing and breaking work processes (or people) for want of something to do.

However, the maverick’s love of adventure, abstract and intellect can lead to a surprising complex and challenging maverick nature. This specific trait of the maverick is one of the things often admired and loved by non–mavericks (conformists).

The personality trait ‘conscientiousness’ in this context relates to the tendency to strive for achievement, to be self-disciplined, organised and determined. It is worth noting that the maverick will always measure himself against his own measures and standards and no one else’s.

They are internally motivated and as such generally have little concern for what others think, unless confronted by someone that they respect. (Mavericks will, however, move into action if someone’s perceptions are affecting something, or someone, they care about).

Be aware however, to anger the maverick is to awaken the beast!

All maverick personalities are highly determined to get their own way, with only the method of achievement differentiating Socialised and Extreme Mavericks.

Whilst Socialised Mavericks will consider other’s feelings, wants and desires and do their best to accommodate them whilst ensuring that the mavericks goals are met (rarely at the maverick’s expense); Extreme Mavericks will focus solely on achieving that goal at the expense of others if necessary.

I think that the biggest variable between Socialised Mavericks and Extreme Mavericks is how ‘agreeable’ they are. Socialised Mavericks will value getting along with others and cooperating rather than competing, as compared to Extreme Mavericks (but never as high as a conformist).

Socialised Mavericks are highly competitive, but will hide this competitive streak if it means that it makes it easier for others to cooperate with them and be more easily influenced. One of the peculiarities of the British people is that they do not like to see and are indeed suspicious of overt competitiveness.

British Socialised Mavericks have therefore learnt to adapt and often hide their competitive nature to increase their level of success and influence.

Socialised Mavericks will have more empathy towards people, even those not in their social or friendship groups than Extreme Mavericks. Extreme Mavericks will always place their own self-interest at a premium to others and are not shy in showing or expressing this.

They have little concern for social harmony unless it fits neatly into their plans. They tend to be more sceptical of others and are therefore likely to be more uncooperative.

Mavericks tend to have high ‘Emotional Stability’, which in this context means that they tend to be calm in tense situations and rarely lose confidence in their own ability or control of the situation. Mavericks tend to be carefree and optimistic and have a high tolerance for stress.

This self-confidence and high self-esteem is often seen as intimidating or arrogant by others, leading to the maverick once again being misunderstood, and immensely frustrated.

An Extreme (extraverted) Maverick may however, demonstrate behaviour that looks like they are unable to control high emotion like anger. This however, is often a ruse employed by them to manipulate other’s behaviours.

An explosion of anger from an Extreme (extraverted) Maverick is hardly ever truly spontaneous, more likely part of a plan to change someone else’s mindset or behaviour. An Extreme Maverick often sees intimidation and domination as an effective tool to get what they want.

E Joyce and A Timothy found in 2004 a correlation between the Big 5 Personality Traits and transformational leadership. It seems that the Socialised Maverick’s personality, lends itself directly to someone who is likely to practice transformational leadership.

This type of leadership can inspire positive changes for their followers, as the Socialised Maverick focuses on helping every member of the group succeed and develop. Socialised Mavericks always work for the greater good, if it isn’t possible in the environment that they find themselves in, they leave.

When considering a maverick’s personality, it’s worth determining whether they are demonstrating a maverick personality or maverick traits.

You can buy The Maverick Paradox here

About the author

Judith Germain is the leading authority on mavericks and is considered a hopeful pragmatist. She is also an author, leadership and business consultant, mentor, and strategist.


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