One of the most difficult lessons for many leaders to learn is the necessity to welcome and tolerate disagreement. When you’re the boss or in any type of leadership position, it can be difficult to hear others suggest that your ideas or opinions may be wrong.
I personally don’t like being told I’m wrong, but then again, I don’t really know anyone who does. However, I want and need, to hear from others when they don’t agree with my line of thinking.
A weak leader takes disagreement personally. They feel threatened, offended and attacked when those working under their direction challenge their ideas and opinions. At best, weak leaders react by waving off disagreement as unimportant, and at worse, they remove those who disagree with them. This ultimately leads to a team of individuals who feel under-valued with limited authority.
The best leaders not only welcome and tolerate disagreement, they actually make it a point to surround themselves with individuals who feel comfortable openly providing criticism and alternate perspectives. They seek individuals to be a part of their inner circle who will challenge and question their decisions, ideas and initiatives.
My company provides a variety of services to a diverse group of clients located across the United States. In the various sectors of our business, we have individuals who are more talented, specialized, experienced, and knowledgeable at their specific jobs than I would ever be. Therefore, their ideas and opinions not only matter but are essential to our success.
When I spend time with these individuals, I often share ideas and thoughts aimed at helping them do their jobs. But to suggest I would implement a policy or develop a procedure or a new initiative, and not expect to hear any disagreements from my team is not only unreasonable but foolhardy on their part.
Ask any great business leader about the process which led to some of their best and most important decisions made, and you will likely hear about the arguments, disagreements and contested discussions among a leadership team, all of which led to final decisions and course of action. I remember a number of these instances in my company as well, and the times I had to remind myself to tolerate, consider, and accept the challenges and questions about my opinion and decisions.
If aspiring leaders can learn to tolerate and welcome disagreement, both to their ideas and opinions and among their team members, they take another step towards their future success.
Leadership Quick Tips:
1. Create a safe environment for your team to express their opinions and ideas.
2. Don’t take disagreements from your team personally. Be open to seeing their perspective.
3. Embrace diversity of thought. Having diverse people, and views on your team are proven to help leaders make better decisions.
4. Never shut down an idea. Some of the best ideas and solutions are sparked by an initial idea that would never be used in its original form.