The Myth of Consensus

Fresh from business school with my MBA, I went to work for a global consulting firm in Chicago.  The office was run by a brilliant Israeli who was a tank commander in the Six Day War.  He expected high performance of his 100-person staff – and he got it.  And I learned a ton.

There’s a widespread misconception that effective leaders manage by consensus.  That’s baloney.  Think back of the best teachers, coaches, and bosses in your life.  Odds are each one was clear about what they wanted and expected you to perform.  And the reason you hold them in high esteem is because they helped you do more and learn more than you thought possible. 

Weak leaders seek consensus because they want to be liked, or because they want the group to be accountable for the leader’s decisions.  They think that employee satisfaction comes from giving people things. 

You don’t have to be a tank commander to provide clear direction, expect high performance, get people to perform near their potential, and engender greater self-esteem from achievement.  But it won’t happen from consensus. 

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