Q: I believe in “consensus management”, which to me means involving all stakeholders in decision making and that no single person should do this alone. I have been living this leadership principle for the last two years, where I involve my management team in most areas of decision making. However, my boss disagrees.
To him, doing it this way is being irresponsible and non-committal. He wants me to play a more active (rather than a passive) role in decision making. But when I asked him whether this means I should be more autocratic, he said no. This confuses me even more. Can I have your views on this?
A: Obviously, your boss is jumping in now as the results are not what he expects. So, there must be something about your leadership that is not producing results. Try putting yourself in your boss’s shoes to understand why he feels this way.
To him, you may be a weak leader who dares not lead from the front or that you are playing it safe so that you can blame others when things go wrong. All in all, I think your boss is asserting that, as a leader, you cannot afford to be totally democratic, as the final decision rests with you.
Consensus management has to be done with some caution. While small decisions can be made by your people, the bigger ones need to be made by the leader at the end of the day. Of course, we need to consider the viewpoints of stakeholders but, ultimately, it is the leader who decides.
The followers learn from the leader on how decisions are made and, over time, they too become skilful and grow in confidence and independence. You also need to take note that respect for leaders diminishes when followers are not given sufficient support and guidance but are instead thrown into the deep end to fend for themselves. Fundamentally, followers want leaders who can lead, set out expectations, provide clearer directions and show them how to do it. So, you need to rethink your total consensus management philosophy.
• How happy are you with your leaders?
• What kind of results are you getting?
• If you were the boss, what do you think is in his mind?
• How can you ‘marry’ your preferences and your boss’ expectations for a win-win situation?
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