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Lead by consensus wherever possible.

Dictators are not great leaders in the long run.  People follow such leaders by fear, rarely by devotion.  Employees want to have a stake in their own destiny, and above all want to understand why actions are taken which affect them, even if the outcome is not in the employee’s favor.

The best leaders are those who share problems and alternative solutions with their direct reports, then seek consensus in decisions as a result.  Obviously, there areexceptions.  If the group cannot agree upon a course of action, the leader must act, even if the action taken is to defer the decision until more information or a consensus is reached.  And obviously, an emergency is rarely the time to seek consensus before acting to protect lives and assets.

[Email readers, continue here…]  In non-profit enterprises, such as educational institutions, the pace of decision-making is usually much slower as the executive director, president or chairman seeks consensus from the community wherever possible.   Many business executives first joining a non-profit board are surprised by the slow speed of deliberation and the resulting consensus-seeking that results.   Especially in collegiate academic communities, a dictator chancellor or president rarely lasts long in the position.

And this rule becomes a part of the DNA or culture of the organization.  Employees throughout the organization want to feel empowered to make suggestions, to know the reasons for decisions that affect their jobs, to have some small control over their environment.

Without a doubt, if you interview employees and managers in companies large and small, you will find that those feeling most appreciated, most productive, and most creative are the ones allowed and encouraged to participate in the decisions that affect their jobs.

  • Michael Flynn


    Thanks for the post. I thought the book The Cycle of Leadership by Tichy was interesting. Personally, I have found that it is nearly impossible to get consensus, and for good reason. Honest, lead by example visionary leadership has proven to win the hearts of minds of men by great leaders throughout history. Your post makes me think of that great BBC tv show, hailed by The Iron Lady as being the most accurate representation of politics she had ever encountered, “Yes, Prime Minister.” Group think leads to fascism or chaos. I fall in with Aristotle on this one.

  • Peter Metz

    “Consensus is the abdication of leadership.” –Margaret Thatcher.

  • Al Hansen

    Concise and brilliant!

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