Are you a Rule Follower or an Independent Thinker?



Some of us welcome the “lines” that rules offer. Some of us do not see the “lines.”

Some of us believe that there is the “right” way to do everything. Some of us create our own way.

The “Rule Followers” tend to enter each task carefully, asking a seemingly endless number of questions to be sure to complete it successfully. It is imperative to them that they keep their reputation untarnished. They have no interest in simply trying something and seeing if it works. They intend to do it “right” or convince the person whose idea it is, that it is a bad idea. They are frequently viewed as naysayers and an impediment to progress. But, oh, the pitfalls the Rule Followers help the “Independent Thinkers” avoid. An example? Your accountant, always focused on details and doing it “right.”

The Independent Thinkers essentially believe that rules are guidelines for others to follow. They creatively evaluate each situation according to what makes sense to them. How things are usually done is essentially irrelevant. When they present an idea to a Rule Follower, they find themselves getting hit with a concerned barrage of questions that demand more details than they have. An example? The person who shows up at the tax accountant April 1st with a box of papers accumulated throughout the year.

We are in a series that is exploring how to communicate effectively with people who have different behavioral/motivational styles (DISC/Driving Forces profile) than you do.

Clearly, Rule Followers and Independent Thinkers face challenges communicating with one another.

Leadership skill: Communicate effectively when facing different levels of compliance.

When you are talking to someone who is careful and eager to do things “right”, be prepared to present a well-thought-through case:

  • Include the what, why, and how of your idea.
  • Do not add superfluous information or emotion.
  • Do not push too hard.
  • Listen intently to their concerns.
  • Calmly give additional information.
  • Be patient and be willing to do additional research to satisfy questions to which you have no answers.

Most of all, understand the source of what sounds and feels like your idea is being shot down. The Rule Followers want to be successful. They also want to create the best outcome for you.

When you are talking to someone who is an Independent Thinker, remember that they just do not see the constraints that seems so obvious to you. It is not that they lack intelligence or are reckless. They simply value creative self-determination. When you demand answers to your questions, assuming that they will “see the error of their ways”, you invite them to become stubborn and they see you as a killjoy.

  • Be interested and respectfully listen to their ideas
  • Gently ask them to clarify their thoughts.
  • Remember that their ideas are often not conceived with the number of details that your brain is rushing to add, so be patient.

Remember that they are not trying to set you up to fail, they simply have an idea.

How are you doing, 0 – 10, leading when faced with different levels of compliance?

I’m an Independent Thinker. Fortunately, I have been blessed with Rule Followers in my life that invite me to reconsider some of my ideas while at the same time occasionally appreciating my “rule” alternatives that give them food for thought. When a Rule Follower and an Independent Thinker respect each other as intelligent and bringing value, they can move from adversarial to collaborative. Healthy communication from a variety of perspectives is how organizations, individual relationships, and nations grow. This is important work.

Posted on October 4, 2018 in Leadership

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