The Rebel Leader

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My assumption is that everyone is aware that a new Star Wars movie is coming out this week. If you’re not…I am somewhat speechless, but either way ill briefly explain (don’t worry, no spoilers).

The movie appears to take place in the early stages of the rebellion (A precursor to Episode 4). In many of the trailers, you see the construction of the Deathstar and the new protagonist saying “This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.”

The trailer gets me amped up every time I watch it, but it does get me thinking about what it is to rebel. I mean, this person is going against an established order, yet I and others like me, automatically assume she is the hero of the story. But is that how rebels are always treated? In the stories…probably, but in the real world, it’s less likely.

Rebels don’t typically get the hero label because, in the real world, it’s in the form of someone initiating a change at the community or office level. It’s someone with the attitude of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.” And even though they might have achieved their outcome, the act may not be recognized as a hero’s action.

So how can we increase our chance of success with this philosophy? When it comes to business, there is a practice known as rebel leadership. It’s a role that many people have tried to pull off, but much like other leadership styles, it’s an art that requires study and courage. If you don’t know what you are doing, you might not be a leader for long.

In my career, I have both followed and played the role of the rebel leader. I’m writing this to share my perspective on the style. It is a style that is not always necessary, but when it is, it can be extremely difficult to navigate. I hope to give you some guidelines and expectations from my experience that have helped me and those around me be successful in this role.


  • Being a rebel should not be your default option. Ever. This option should only be considered a last resort as it will be disruptive to your organization. Make sure you are 100 percent sure this is something you want to take on.
  • Being a rebel is not an attitude, it’s a movement. Rebel leaders walk a fine line when leading a rebellion, and attitude is usually the differentiator. Remember, if you are just complaining, you are not leading. Rebel actions attract followers; rebel attitudes deter them.
  • Don’t be forceful. The second word in rebel leader is “leader.” Make sure you are leading others. down the path you want them to go. Find what it would take for others to be your followers and capitalize on that.
  • Rebel leaders only sacrifice themselves. Any choice that is made in a rebellion can have serious consequences, and that should be at the forefront of a leader’s mind. Never force the risk you wish to take on others. A true leader accepts all responsibility for things that go wrong and passes acknowledgment for things that go right.
  • Don’t be reckless. Just as you don’t sacrifice others, you also need to be sure you are putting the company first. You want to maintain the strength of your professional relationship and pick your battles wisely. I recommend studying and practicing “Crucial Conversations” before you start the effort. There is no point in taking steps forward in an area if it’s at the expense of taking steps backward in either company standings or relationships.

Lessons Learned

  • Being a rebel is hard. It will be stressful, and you will more than likely engage in a lot of conflicts. Stay patient because the longer you keep forward motion, the more followers you will attract. And if you don’t attract enough followers, it might be time to pivot away from your initiative.
  • Be prepared for a negative perception. Challenging the status quo is never popular. If you are the face of the change, you will also be unpopular. Depending on the size of the change or the number of changes you have made, this perception could stay with you for some time.
  • Important: Understand that you are possibly slowing down your career progression. If you choose to rebel against higher-ups, regardless of the outcome, you are challenging an authority of some kind. With that comes the real possibility of damaging relationships with those responsible for recommending your promotions/raises along the way. This is something to be mindful of.

Wrap Up

After reading the lessons learned, it probably seems that I have painted a grim picture. My goal isn’t to deter anyone from doing what they think is in the best interest of their company. My goal is to prepare those for realistic outcomes of your choices. I don’t want anyone’s rebellion to turn into a regret.

Most rebellions are really small in nature. It might be changing an out of date process, or recommending a new software. If these are your initiatives, understand you have chosen something that is meant to be hard. You have replaced your path of least resistance, with a path of resistance. But don’t let that scare you. Great things are built upon movements and rebels can be the best change agents to an organization, whether it is ever recognized or not.

So, if you have a cause worth rebelling over, I hope this message helps achieve your desired outcome. If you have any thoughts/stories you would like to share, please leave them in the comments below. Keep making others around you successful, and may the force be with you. Watch the trailer below to get excited about the rebellion.

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We Can Lead Our Leaders, but We Can’t Do It Alone

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The election is finally over, and America is gearing up for new leaders in all areas of our government. For some, this is exciting, others scary, but one thing for sure is that things are going to change.

We as a nation have become divided, and to be honest, we have let this separation go too far. Over the last 16 years, the rhetoric has changed from opposing viewpoints to “us vs. them”. If you are not with us, you are against us. It almost like many have picked a home team and a rival, and through thick and thin you root for your home team and against your rival.

This seems to be the case with most hot topics these days. It’s just most obvious in the political world and became especially obvious during this election cycle.

I’ll give you a quick example of how casual it has become. I witnessed a race for a senate seat where both candidates ran attack ads against one another. In each, both used the association to the others “side” as an assault. The Democratic runner used the phrase “conservative values,” and the Republican runner used the word “liberal” as standalone bullet points when discussing their opponent. As if they were bad words or something they should be ashamed of.

The reason this is so messed up is that when they decided to run these ads, they did more than alienate their opponent. All of those who fell under the umbrella of having “conservative values” or being “liberal” also received the same insult. They publicly insulted and shamed the people they are trying to represent. As a voter, this is disheartening.


People might say this is a result of the system, and it’s the responsibility of our newly elected officials to make the changes they promised. They’re our appointed leaders so they should be leading us down this path. Shouldn’t they?

While there are some truths to this thought, it completely omits acknowledgment of our own influence on the system. The system does influence our culture, but we influence our systems by voting. So what came first? Are we the chicken or the egg?

If you really need that answered, simply spend a little time on social media looking at “hot topic” discussions like Black Lives Matter or Election 2016. Read the comments on Youtube videos about the 2nd amendment. It will be pretty obvious that WE have created this divide, not our system. The system is simply a reflection of the way we treat one another. We have unknowingly, and effectively lead our leaders to represent us on a platform of separation, and we get surprised at the way they treat one another.

So what can we do?

Believe it or not, we have been influencing the system for some time now, so we can band together to bring positive change. We have to start dropping the home team vs. rival mentality and learn how to Respectfully disagree with one another.

This is no easy task. I’m talking about changing the culture of an entire country which doesn’t happen easily or quickly. However, there is good news. People are now talking about this “divide” more than ever. This election shined a light on the problem for everyone to see, and people are starting to care. They’re showing it by doing what I’m doing with this article. They’re finding ways to communicate the need for a change publicly. Why? Because change has to happen as a society before we can expect it to happen within our systems.

Wrap up

We have been leading our leaders for a long time, and we will continue to in the future. The opportunity we have in front of us is to lead by example. We can steer our leaders down a better path by striving to model the behavior we wish them to replicate. We have way more power than you think we simply need numbers.

So, I feel that it is my responsibility to lead by example in my little sphere of influence and try to minimize this divide within my tribe. I don’t know how far that sphere goes, but it isn’t very. I encourage everyone to communicate this message out within your sphere, so we stand a chance to promote change.

As always, please leave me a comment if you want to publicly share your insight. Connect with me on social media if you’re interested in discussing further. And let’s try to start being the leaders we want to see.

Thanks for your time!

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