How Good Leaders Handle Disagreement

June 26, 2018

I personally don’t like to be 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.

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.

Weak leaders take 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 property consulting, design and engineering, construction and facility 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 would be foolhardy on my part.

Ask great business leaders 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. Allow your team to express their opinions and ideas without judgement.

2. Don’t take disagreement personally. Be open to seeing different perspectives from others.

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.

Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.

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