“It pays to break the rules at work and in life,” says Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino. In her research on talented rebels, Professor Gino identifies traits of rebel leadership that provide a competitive edge. These rebels “fight against” convention and “train their minds” to avoid stereotypes. Here are five ways you can be a trailblazer:

1. Identify your differences and personal talents.

Take inventory of what makes you unique. What is it that makes you different from most? Leverage what you have that most others don’t, and let it be known.

Applying for a job is an important time to highlight how you are different. Set yourself apart. This is not the time you want to try and conform and look the same as others. Share what you are good at. Allow yourself to be you and not let others put you in a box.

2. Be curious.

In a job interview, for example, ask questions to let the other person gain insight into who you are and what motivates you. Questions allow the other person to better understand you and avoid misunderstandings. Let your mind and interests lead you to new information and opportunities.

3. Say “yes,” not “no.”

Saying “yes” expands opportunities. Saying “no” closes off opportunities. Don’t say “no” because you think you should. Give yourself the liberty to say “yes” to what you want.

If you are exploring an opportunity at an organization and they ask if you would be willing to travel as part of the role or consider a similar role, think about saying, “Yes, I would consider it.” Continue through the process so that your potential employer can see your full value, which may be more than they expected. When they see your value, you will have more leverage to negotiate the opportunity you want. Don’t close doors before they even open.


4. Don’t tether yourself to what you have learned.

Don’t get stuck in the past. Don’t let what you have learned hinder you from looking to the future. If something you hear is inconsistent with what you learned, check your bias towards doing what you know or think is comfortable. Doing what is comfortable may not be the best decision. Just because something is new does not make it less true or more risky. As Professor Gino says, “learn everything and then forget everything.” Don’t restrain yourself.

5. Focus on what can be done, not what cannot be done.

Limited options can make things easier for you. You don’t have to think about tons of scenarios. Instead, you can thoughtfully consider the few that exist. Gino says that rebel leaders find freedom in constraint. They don’t see limitations as a roadblock but rather an opportunity to focus on a few options.

Only you can be you. Capitalize on your uniqueness to become a groundbreaker and ask questions, be open to new information and see the possibilities.