Sometimes I think I can be seen as being a bit eccentric and to be honest I quite like it; although it doesn’t mean I am fond of being the centre of attention. I often feel on the edge of things, not quite mainstream, sometimes it’s fun, other times it’s lonely. But is my eccentricity something that can be a help?
I have been studying the practice of Organisational Development (OD) recently as part of my leadership scholarship and am learning lots of things that I think have equal applicability in a leadership space. OD practitioners use the concept of ‘self as instrument’, understanding that any intervention has an impact and think carefully about how they act, think and do – their presence. I think leaders could usefully think like this too. I started to wonder if my perception of ‘self’ and my presence might be something to do with how I affected things around me. Presence can be thought about as impact created by personal appearance, manner, values, knowledge, reputation, and so on. So, if ‘self’ is important in leadership interventions, is my possible eccentricity an advantage or a disadvantage?
There is a fascinating idea first described by Halafin (1976) called the ‘Perceived Weirdness Index’ (PWI) that I came across exploring the OD literature. Your PWI may make you more or less effective as a change agent. The PWI is a spectrum of behaviours with a ‘sweet spot’ where you are not in the mainstream of the organisational culture but just weird enough to be at the edge, the theory being that if your PWI is just like everyone else’s you are less likely to be successful at effecting change as you are absorbed into the organisational culture but if you are in the ‘sweet spot’ then you can be more effective as a change agent.
Are the people who you think are change agents just a bit weird? Where do you think your PWI score is in your workplace? How different are you? All very interesting thoughts!