Thursday, October 25, 2012

Outsiders are the best and worst leaders

One critical choice in selecting a leader is: do we opt for an insider or outsider? Gautam Mukunda, HBS professor, suggests that outsiders make the best and worst leaders- they succeed or fail dramatically. An insider can only produce modest outcomes. Either we take a risk with an outsider or we stay with an insider in the knowledge that no great outcomes are possible.

When an organisation is in dire crisis, it is relatively easy to plump for an outsider: after all, you have little to lose and a great deal to gain. But what do you do when the organisation is cruising along but wants to go the next level? We are truly stumped. It doesn't surprise me that most organisations simply prefer business as usual.

There are a couple of other options that suggest themselves to me. How about selecting an outsider in
advance and making him an insider? Then, we bring in the ability to view things differently and marry it to familiarity with the existing situation. Or, how about choosing an insider who has a reputation of being something of a contrarian, a de facto outsider?

More in my ET column.


sujatha said...

Contrarians are never looked at favorably in an organization. They speak their mind at the cost of forfeiting their growth. Their contributions go unrecognized; it’s another matter that the same idea coming from a consultant is valued. It’s the case of ‘ ghar ke murgi….’
I have recently taken up a leadership role in an organization. As a new entrant I can see their strengths which have been taken for granted by the insiders. An outsider can see mundane things in new light and bring about a positive change

T T Ram Mohan said...


Heartiest congrats on taking up a leadership role! I hope you are able to prove Mukunda's thesis on outsiders right.