Seth Godin wrote in Tribes, “Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements,” (2008, 11).


Heretics are trailblazers. They are unconventional leaders, and they cause a lot of anxiety for those who are trying to arrest change and keep everything within a narrow comfort zone.

The inertia of the comfort zone resists any side trips into unknown territory. It would rather keep doing the same old thing that doesn’t work than try something different that seems risky or is unproven.

Those who call themselves leaders to keep everything the same, to play it safe, to protect the status quo, are leading us to nowhere.

These are the INPowered.

The trailblazers are leaders who are looking for opportunities to make things better. Furthermore, they are creating those opportunities by rebuilding relationships among the estranged, buy pushing science and technology into new applications, buy reshaping communities so people can find common solutions to difficult problems.

History is dotted with many heretics in all disciplines–government, religion, medicine, science, business, technology, and others–who dared challenge the status quo or conventional wisdom. Many, whom we now revere, were originally ridiculed and persecuted as heretics for their outlandish and absurd ideas and philosophies.

Some of my favorite heretics are:

Jesus bar Joseph of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) for daring to bad mouth the written traditions of the Jewish religion that got in the way of observing the spirit of God’s Law (Mark 7:1-23). Jesus really went off on the religious legalists in Matthew 23. It got ugly. The Jewish religious leaders were able to have him executed over it and other heresies.

Socrates, the Greek philosopher, for holding the rulers of Athens accountable for their immorality and lack of ethics. He was tried and found guilty of corrupting the minds of the youths and for mocking the gods of Athens. He was executed.

Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer, for proving that Earth was not the center of the universe as the church leaders professed. His inventions allowing observing celestial bodies literally showed the sun was in fact the center of our solar system. But when it came to religious orthodoxy, seeing was not believing. The church put the pressure on Galileo to recant his findings. He did, but spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Mahatma Gandhi, for challenging British rule over India and accompanying civil rights abuses and ultimately achieving national independence. His non-violent methods have inspired many other civil rights movements. While trying to heal religious strife late in life between Hindus and Muslims, he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist.

One thing more. The kind of heretic I’m talking about is the one who contributed something of substance to the welfare of mankind. I’m not talking about egomaniacal blowhards with a personal agenda.

Nicolo Machiavelli had it right when he wrote, “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”

Who would you add to this list?

Who are some of your favorite heretics who contributed something of substance to the welfare of mankind?

Will you join the ranks of the heretics who made a difference that outlived them?

And what will be your cause, your passion?

Will you be
Leadership training, leadership development, Garland McWatters

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