Consensus versus Leadership



Happy New Year. If you have ever dealt with the 4th quarter of an enterprise software company, you understand that chaos that ensues. Hence the reason I haven’t written since November … but I am still shocked that it’s been that long.

The battle between consensus versus leadership is something that I have come face to face with of late. They are really two fundamentally different things that can get very mixed up.

There is certainly no exactness to this definition but consensus is really about taking a group of people and identifying the mean. Weighing all opinions equally (even if they are not equal, or just plain not factual) and finding a mid point of agreement if not leadership. It is conflict avoidance.

Leadership is taking the road of conviction and strategy. Here is the main point of confusion … the job of the leader is to build consensus around the strategy, not to sacrifice or diminish the strategy to build consensus. Strong leaders understand that execution is all about communication and bringing that strategy alive so when consensus needs to be built, the long term goal is kept on the forefront. Weak leaders listen to all and find an unhappy average.

Too often decisions are made in HR this way. Hires are made “by committee”, technology is purchased by RFP even if the RFP misses the mark and processes are deployed based on the opinions of all, even if those opinions have no frame of reference to the long term direction.

Leadership is about listening and then taking strong movement down the path we believe we create the best performance. Some will agree, others wont. Build “consensus” around what is required and the right thing for the business.


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