Keep Mavericks at your Side

By | October 11, 2019

[October 11, 2019]  He came from “the other side of the tracks.”  Staff Sergeant John Crèche was young, brash, and flippant.  Born to a poor family on a ranch in southern Texas, John had a refreshing ability to see beyond the platitudes, the red tape, and the prima donnas that infect all large organizations.  And, he never hesitated to speak his mind.  John was a maverick, and I kept him near me at all times.

Why would I put up with rude behavior from him was simple; I wanted clarity in my dealings with other leaders.  I was a full-bird Colonel commanding a brigade that required my full attention.  Like any leader, it is impossible to keep tabs on everything that happens, and that is where John came in.  He was the kind of person you didn’t want to walk through your door.  If he did, it meant trouble; something was wrong and needed fixing.

I was given some good advice as a young Engineer Captain when I was asked to command a broken company of soldiers, just returning from Desert Storm.  A stodgy old First Sergeant came to me with some ideas about how to correct the myriad of problems we had.  His comment to me was that he knew a young soldier – a “maverick” as he called him – that I might want to interview.  This soldier was a true maverick.  I was one of the few officers who could tolerate him.  Thinking back on my company command, I know that he contributed greatly to our successes.

Later in my career, I came across another maverick.  As a side note, most soldiers like this are encouraged to leave the military.  But, Staff Sergeant Crèche was a rare breed of soldier.  True enough, he didn’t like obeying orders.  In reality, he didn’t like obeying orders from military officers he considered “dimwits.”  It took me a long time to earn his respect and trust.  But it was an effort that would bring my unit accolades as we improved the brigade’s combat readiness.

John Crèche was a man who could stand toe-to-toe with me and tell me how things were screwed up.  It didn’t matter to him that my rank was far above his or that I had combat experience, and he did not.  To him, a man was a man, and he was going to tell me what was going on that was wrong.  I learned my lesson as an Engineer Captain that if you keep mavericks at your side – earning their respect and trust – you will not regret it.

History is full of mavericks; Horatio Nelson, William Slim, George Patton, and – yes – George Washington.1  The course of history has been changed by military mavericks that were in the right place at the right time.  In the current age of Pentagon generals and admirals who command from afar, we forget that wars are won or lost by the commander with the best vision of the battlefield and knowledge of his men and his enemy.  That is why I always advise keeping mavericks at your side.


1.  Military Mavericks: Extraordinary Men of Battle:

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “Keep Mavericks at your Side

  1. Joe Omerrod

    Lots of great comments today and I do appreciate the extra thinking thru on the topic. I too have employed folks who can be called mavericks. But, no matter how hard I try to keep them, they always seem to move on to another job. Money doesn’t keep them so everyone should keep that in mind.

  2. Jerome Smith

    Just one thought here from my brother who is likely a ‘maverick’ like discussed here. Mavericks are a bit sensitive and difficult to placate. This doesn’t mean that you have treat them much differently but putting them in a place where their talents work best is the greatest challenge. Senior leaders put them on special staffs but that only works well in large organizations where there is room. Smaller companies don’t have that luxury. I have found that mavericks in small business are risky but you have to ask the question, “Are you strong enough to have a maverick on your side?”

    1. Martin Shiell

      My opinion is that most leaders will not want a so-called maverick on their team. There is too much disruption and, yes, high risk that the maverick will spin out of control.

  3. Sadako Red

    Some have called me a maverick because I pull no punches on telling the truth and coming up with brutally effective tactics to get things done and done right. My most common saying is ‘Let’s go kick some butt.’ That may sound funny but it works. So, get off your ass and do something.

    1. JT Patterson

      Haven’t seen you on the Satterfield leadership blog in a while. We all look forward to your next article.

      1. Janna Faulkner

        Yes and I’m one of his original fans. I highly recommend if you’ve not read SD’s articles then go back now and read. Excellent – humor, hard hitting, to the point, and useful.

    2. Eva Easterbrook

      Red, when are you going to write another article? We miss you. I just wanted to say that your articles have been an inspiration to me. I love the fact that you dismiss Political Correctness that is a mask for un-American activities. Thank you so much, in advance, for your next commentary.

  4. Roger Yellowmule

    It is always good to keep a few “rebellious” types around you. They tend to come up some some surprising and useful solutions to problems because they “see” things differently than you or I. I’ve learned also the value of keeping them around to help solve difficult problems.

    1. Max Foster

      Roger, I agree but I believe a more valuable reason is that they will tell you – as a leader – when you are screwing up; doing something that might be illegal, immoral, or unethical. These folks are great because they keep you personally out of hot water. The book reference in Gen. Satterfield’s article is by David Rooney and a worthy read. Reading is important for leaders and should never be discouraged.

      1. Dennis Mathes

        Good point here, Max. I think this is the main reason to keep mavericks around.

    2. Doc Blackshear

      Many reasons, of course, to keep mavericks. It’s like they are creative and are looking for an outlet. The difficulty is keep them in your company. These mavericks tend to be late to work, disrespectful, unreliable, etc. These traits don’t go over very well.

      1. Albert Ayer

        I agree and thus the challenge to keeping them at your side. You have to explain to other leaders why.

    1. Jane Fillmore

      Yes, another article to set me for the weekend. I for one, will be taking it easy this Columbus Day weekend (for those of us from the USA). Thanks all and see you Tuesday.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      Yeah and the reason I keep coming back to Gen Satterfield and his blog.

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