The behavior of the human maverick can be well short of honourable and may even cut the corners of legality. But whether sharp practice was typical of the eponymous Samuel Maverick, a Texan cattle-raiser, is beside the management point. The reality is that the best maverick managers make the world go round. Without them many great companies and industries would not exist. Indeed, far from being the exceptions that prove the rule, the mavericks disprove it.
You could easily maintain that all great managers, certainly all important entrepreneurs, are mavericks, rule-breakers who disregard the herd and obey their own instincts and intellects. None of these makers and shakers can ever be described as conformist. One fine example of the breed is Philip Knight of Nike, who has now retired as the shoe company’s chief executive for the third time. That in itself is highly unconventional; but when his replacements for the first two retirements didn’t work out, Knight stepped back in. Remarkable recovery and revitalised growth duly followed.