A concern I hear frequently from senior executives is that people they manage might not like or agree with a proposed change. This change could be something large scale like a new vision or direction. Or it could be more prosaic like a different approach to an offsite meeting.
When did we get so pre-occupied in bringing everyone along? Consensus is overrated and we bring ourselves (and our teams) to a standstill as we seek it out. I see time and time again executives wanting broad support before taking the first step. That's not how leadership works. We have to stick our head above the parapet in service of our own bigger vision.
This search for consensus results in death by discussion. In a desire to be seen as democratic rather than autocratic, I see executives consulting endlessly. There comes a time when the idea for change has been diluted to the point of being useless, or the dialogue has created entrenched positions of opposing parties.
Introducing change requires dialogue and takes time. I'm not advocating autocracy where the staff are the last to know of any change. But I do want to challenge this notion that as leaders we are not able to go ahead with something without 100% buy-in.
The world yearns for leaders. We want to line up behind people who have a vision and know where they are going. We want leaders who have courage and gumption to try new things and tackle difficult challenges that we can subscribe to.
Seth Godin says "Leaders have followers, managers have employees. Managers make widgets, and leaders make change." (If you haven't read his book "Tribes", it's definitely one for the list).
There is a delightful, tongue in cheek video that shows how leaders are born (and it's under 3 minutes.)
In the video, one man starts alone looking ridiculous in his dance. For some time, he remains out at an edge and very alone in his project as the crowds watch on. Slowly, one person joins him and is then followed by another. In that moment, the dancer has created his tribe. Within several moments, he has a large tribe and we're left wondering how we can join in (or not!). You either want to be one of his followers or not – the delineation of the tribe is clear.
Leadership takes courage to have an idea and to be willing to stand up for that idea. Leaders needs the guts to stand-alone and look ridiculous in service of your tribe finding you.
What is your dance, and who is your tribe? When you've worked that out, you can stop worrying about leaving the rest behind.