As far as I can tell, “maverickism” was coined by or about Sarah Palin in the 2008 Presidential Campaign, but it showed up in the 10/5 this week’s Nation’s Cities Weekly for a Leadership Training Institute seminar being offered at the National League of Cities Congress of Cities in San Antonio in November. Apparently, maverickism is required for “unhooking the straight jacket [sic] and unleashing leaders and their employees to engage in real talk about real innovation” which is “crucial to addressing today’s unprecedented challenges.”
Bah humbug, I say. Today’s problems are not utterly unique and we would be much better off with leaders who were not let loose in city hall to be innovative just to be innovative. Rather, I’d like leaders who do their homework, understand the big picture of city government (and a little history wouldn’t be bad either) and could identify the relevant similarities and differences among situations, solutions, and issues. Creativity? Sure, it’s good to be able to see issues in new ways and to consider innovative solutions – but you still have to be able to tell whether new ideas might be effective (and cost effective) by being able to evaluate them relative to traditional answers, within the legal structure we have to use (or advocate to change), and based on sufficient data. Sounds like there’s more homework to do, how dull and unmavericky.
What really rots my garters about seminars like this one is they make people think there is an easy way to get great results – just be mavericky and throw out the rule book, in this case – and that is almost never true and it might just be the antithesis of leadership. So, we could get distracted by the next new slogan, but what we really need to do is keep working for good, sustainable solutions.