The good news is that throughout history successful leaders from every walk of life have managed to break enough Rules to change the future – but not so many as to cause unnecessary trauma.
Anyone familiar with Complexity Theory knows that there are some aspects of our future that, even theoretically, are unknowable; they are truly random. However clever we get at analyzing social systems, some utterly unpredictable things will happen, of course. Some of them may be major, without doubt.
What is more, as should be obvious by now, I am not pretending that deliberately changing the future is easy, it is not. But throughout history individuals like Alexander, Galileo, Brummel, Manet, Pasteur, Chaplin, Chanel, Churchill, Oppenheimer, Luther-King, Madonna, have successfully Broken the Rules of their world and as a result – decades, even centuries, later – they have influenced our world as well.
Breaking the rules is what advances civilization.
Agreeing which rules we leave alone is what keeps us civilized.
That balancing act, I would suggest, is the same tightrope that every leader needs to walk. Despite the temptation to “shake things up for the sake of it” – too much disruption leaves a dangerous legacy. Indeed, it often does not even achieve its original purpose; at least not for long. Instead, being too heavy-handed results in an avalanche of unintended and often-uncontrollable backlashes, as was seen far too often in the more-extreme abuses of Business Process Reengineering. In business management as in military intervention, it is often far easier to win a war than win the “peace” that follows.
Systems of any form do not tend to respond well to being overly destabilized. Social systems are no exception – society rarely benefits from anarchy. So, when endeavoring to Break the Rules, you must proceed more like a surgeon than a blanket-bomber.
Nevertheless, by one means or another, you need to break the weakest links of those Rules that are preventing the social system you care about (however large or small) settling into a new way of working that, over time, will end up taking it to a different place than otherwise, creating a new destiny, a changed future. That is how you truly make a difference.
Ultimately, it is a means to an end: Break the Rules – Change the Future – Influence the World.