A leader’s varied response is determined most by timing, territory, and temperament of a given situation. Timing speaks of the leader who understands that when one must act is just as important as how one must act. Territory addresses the leader who walks circumspectly, constantly aware of the surroundings while using any given territory to gain an advantage. Temperament attempts to describe the leader who gauges his followers and situations objectively with as little interference as possible in the ever shifting context of public and private, religious and secular organizations. Proficiency with timing, temperament, and territory in our quickly changing global economy gives a person beneficial insight to involve him or herself in the business of leadership.

In this era, leadership fluidity without compromising tried and true principles is paramount; meaning the contrarian leader knows when to flow with and when to dam the tides of unrest. Fundamentally, unless one is made of spandex, no one-size fits all to leadership exists. The concept of leadership is summed up best with the suggestion that leadership is highly situational and contingent (Sample, 2002). The implication is that a technique which works in one situation may not be the best solution in another. The timing, territory, and temperament will always affect one’s response. This may be why the Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership says a leader must be a deep generalist (p.40).

The Temperament of the Contrarian Leader

Objective thinking or what Sample (2002) describes as thinking gray is often a lost art in a competitive market. In the worst-case scenario, one can assume that objective thinking is regularly given to the highest bidder. Thinking gray is exemplified when one does not form an opinion about an important matter until all the relevant facts are in. Thinking free is said to unleash individual potential creativity. Nevertheless, if one is to impartially measure followers and situations, one must block out unnecessary mental intrusion. The following story describes how emotional baggage can make even the most gifted leader do things he or she may come to regret:

How to lose the baggage of bitterness and forgive our enemies like the grandfather of James Thurber?

When he was on his deathbed, Thurber’s grandfather was asked by his minister:

"Have you forgiven all your enemies?"

"Haven’t got any..." said the old man.

"Remarkable!" the minister said, "But how did a red-blooded, two-fisted old battler like you go through life without making any enemies?"

Grandfather Thurber explained casually: "I shot ‘em..."

The contrarian leader is one who takes his thinking seriously. Thinking gray and free grasps the suggestion that a contrarian leader takes thinking seriously enough to not let anyone or anything interfere, prevaricate, or delude decision making and inspiration. Leaders are able to maintain their intellectual independence by thinking gray, and enhance their intellectual creativity by thinking free (p.7).

Finally, humans are constantly inundated with personal, organizational, and societal principles, passions and prejudices. If only momentarily one is capable enough to think gray and free, the idea of balancing temperament is captured. Contrarian leaders discipline themselves enough to find the gray areas of a situation without forming an opinion and lay the ground work for free thinking. I term this outer-body objectivity.


Biblesoft. (1995). The new american standard bible update. Seattle, WA, USA.

Homeletics online. (n.d.). Homeleticsonline. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from

Sample, S. B. (2002). The contraian's guide to leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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