My message last week was that consensus decision making is a mask for weak leadership – either because the leader is afraid to make a decision and wants the group to make the decision for him or her – or the leader has already made the decision and wants to manipulate the group into thinking it made the decision thereby relieving the leader of accountability.
Do not confuse this with a leader asking for and getting input from a group, which is a mark of a strong leader, one who does not feel threatened by getting the best thinking from other ideas. And it’s not the same thing as getting the group to fully support a new direction. Leaders make decisions, often times with input, and they expect the group to fully support the decision once it’s made.
I’ve seen each of these scenarios in organizations. The consensus route always seems to result in a façade of good leadership, but underneath is a current of dysfunction, political maneuvering, and an obsession with blaming others.
Despite all the gurus and HR literature about building commitment, engagement, and the like, the fact is a high performance culture is often imposed by a tough boss with clear direction, high expectations, and an obsession with results. Think of Jack Welch at GE, or Roy Vangelos at Merck, or Andy Grove at Intel, Bill Gates at Microsoft, or Steve Jobs at Apple. The best course is to be yourself and use leadership techniques that result in successfully implementing your strategy.