Francesca Gino is an award-winning behavioral scientist, researcher, and author.

She works as a professor at Harvard Business School and has been named one of the top 50 most influential management thinkers. Her 2018 book, Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life, has created a buzz throughout the business world.

In her book, Francesca describes the five ingredients behind a rebel leader and how a rebel mentality leads to more innovation and higher performance in both work and life.

The recording from our Ask Me Anything session with Francesca Gino during the Innov8rs Connect Talent & Teams, 14-15 May 2020. To watch 500+ session recordings, join Innov8rs Community with a Content or Premium Pass.

The Motivation Behind the Book

Francesca's motivation behind her work was drawn from her experiences visiting and observing the ways major corporations and businesses run on a daily basis. What she found during these experiences is that most organization and leadership at corporations is inefficient. When she questioned these organizations about why their business was functioning in a specific manner, she continually got a similar answer. The answer always seemed to be, "We've always done it this way."

As humans, we are creatures of habit. Francesca acknowledges that it is very easy for us as individuals and as groups to fall into routines. Once we are in these routines, it becomes quite complex to free ourselves from them. However, rebels are the ones that never allow themselves to become complacent in the first place.

While being a rebel generally brings some negative connotations, Francesca thinks of rebels as effective leaders in both life and business. Effective rebels break the rules and push boundaries that lead to the creation of more effective and efficient working environments.

So, how does one come to foster an effective rebel mentality?

The Five Characteristics of an Effective Rebel

Francesca believes that there are five key characteristics for every effective rebel. While not everyone is born an effective rebel, fostering these ingredients into your own life will reap many benefits on both personal and professional levels. Having a talent for curiosity, novelty, perspective, authenticity, and diversity is what it's all about when it comes to fostering an effective rebel mentality.

1. Curiosity

Effective rebels all have a talent for fostering curiosity. Most of us are born curious, but we lose our sense of wonder as we grow older. Society and the status quo tend to stifle curiosity.

However, effective rebels are the people who can keep their sense of wonder alive throughout their lives. They have the ability to remain childlike when it comes to curiosity. Effective rebels are constantly asking questions and examining why things are functioning in the manner that they are at the present moment. Ultimately, effective rebels have a talent for looking at every situation, even accidents, with a sense of wonder.

2. Novelty

Another essential ingredient behind every effective rebel is novelty. Effective rebels are constantly looking for new and innovative ideas. It's easy for us to choose familiarity and stability. Humans always find comfort in what is familiar. However, to be an effective rebel, you have to embrace being uncomfortable. Effective rebels always lean toward new ideas and find joy in the discomfort change brings.

3. Perspective

Effective rebels also have the talent of embracing multiple perspectives. Rebels don't get caught up in maintaining the status quo. They have the ability to entertain multiple perspectives and are much more open to the views of others compared to most individuals.

4. Authenticity

The ability to embrace authenticity is another key ingredient of an effective rebel. Rebels have a great of authenticity about them. They rarely feel the need to conform or cater to the expectations of others. Effective rebels have the courage to embrace their authenticity and are not the type to be afraid of standing out amongst their peers.

5. Diversity

The final ingredient behind effective rebels is the ability to accept and respect diversity. Rather than accepting traditional societal roles or expectations, rebels push back against those expectations. An effective leader leverages their differences to make big impacts in both their personal and professional realms.

How to Be an Effective Rebel

Francesca realizes that being able to continuously maintain these elements in one's life can prove to be challenging. However, she also reasons that it can be done. To effectively prove her point, she likes to draw on examples of effective rebel leadership from history.

Pirate ships from the 16th-century greatly illustrate rebel leadership at its best. During their time, pirate ships consisted of the most diverse organization on the planet.

Despite this diversity, they were able to maintain a sense of order and strong leadership. The crew of the ship was allowed to elect their captain. However, the crew could also easily get rid of their elected captain if they did not feel that the captain was treating the crew fairly.

Francesca believes that today's effective rebels can draw on inspiration from these 16th-century pirate ships. Rebel leaders must ask themselves, "Am I the type of captain that my crew would elect today?" Answering this question regularly, will keep you honest and on the right track when it comes to being an effective rebel.

The Key Takeaway

Rebels get things done. They challenge the status quo and push the established boundaries. While this can seem scary to established organizations, pushing boundaries leads to more innovation and higher levels of performance. This change occurs because people learn to find joy in what they do, rather than the common frustration that comes with the monotonous way working environments are typically formatted.


This is a piece from our Talent & Teams Playbook, summarizing all talks from our spring 2020 event on Talent & Teams. To discuss anything Careers, Personal Development & Wellbeing join our upcoming Innov8rs Connect online event, 7-8 January.

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