Ya Gotta Break a Few Rules


I’m not a big fan of rules, I’m even less of a fan of rules that don’t make sense. I actually despise rules when the maker of the rule explains it with the statement “because I said so.”

When I hear “because I said so” I almost automatically translate that into “because I finally have a little power and I want everyone to know it.” People that make rules because they can are the same people that have leadership positions or titles but aren’t much of a leader.

Authentic leaders respect rules and carefully consider the alternatives before deciding to break one. However, an authentic leader is not afraid to break a rule that needs breaking. An authentic leader knows that sometimes if you’re going to succeed you’re going to have to break some rules.

An authentic leader also knows exactly why a rule is required before they make one. The best organizations, the most innovative organizations and the organizations that succeed through challenging times are the ones with the least rules.

The more rules a leader puts in place the more limits their people will feel, whether the limits were intended or not. If you want your organization to grow then limit the number of rules, get rid of as many boundaries as possible, bring down the walls and remove the doors. (I’ve literally seen companies remove the doors from offices and meeting rooms.)

When one of your people breaks a rule don’t make “punishment” a knee jerk reaction. Calmly analyze how, why and when the rule was broken. Most importantly, look at the result. The result may just be an improvement over the result provided by blindly following the rule.

If breaking the rule caused a negative result you know what to do. If breaking the rule provided a positive result then you have yourself a new and better way of doing things and a rule breaker that you can’t afford to lose.

Have you ever broken a rule that needed to be broken? Tell us about your results.

4 thoughts on “Ya Gotta Break a Few Rules

  1. I agree with having as few rules as possible, to put it another way “when you’re asked something say yes, you should have a very good reason to say no”.

    I work in a highly regulated industry, sometimes the rules are there to help us comply with complex legislation. So I would say; I like rules when they help simplify what has to be done, I don’t like rules when they completely replace critical thinking and our own judgement.

  2. I’m also from a highly regulated environment. When rules make sense, I will follow them. When they don’t, I don’t. I may periodically be thought of as a rule-breaker, but I think my team is the better for it. Thanks for the validation!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Imagine a world where rules where never broken. We would be living in darkness and walking everywhere we went to hunt our food. We would have a life expectancy of say 30 years. A thoughtful prudent rule breaker is responsible for nearly every bit of progress ever made!

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