At what point does coming up with a collaborative solution have to cease and someone in the room (typically the highest ranking leader) have to make an executive decision? What are those tell-tell signs that the effectiveness of trying to gain everyone’s input is beginning to diminish the return? That may sound harsh but there actually is a threshold in these situations. I have referred to it more than once on but it bears repeating.

General Colin L. Powell goes on to say “Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: You’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset.”

So you see there is a threshold to collaborative leadership. At some point a leader has to take responsibility when the team cannot agree on an outcome, next step, or vision. What General Powell goes on to say will happen if we choose to not take responsibility is this:

“Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.”

So many times as leaders we confuse setting a vision, giving directives, and holding our folks accountable as not being collaborative. I see it all the time where leaders try too hard to show that they value their staff’s opinions, are open to feedback and seeking collaborative resolutions to a point that they will not make a decision until they feel everyone is on board. This is a recipe for failure. Good leaders delegate and empower others liberally, but they pay attention to details, every day and they call the play when the play needs to be called.

It is possible to collaborate on HOW we should achieve a mission or goal, but no train can have 15 conductors. Someone has to be the R (responsible) for how fast that train is going, where that train is going and when that train will arrive. The definition of a collaborative leader is not a passive leader. Ask for input, challenge that input, let others challenge yours, but when you feel that the team cannot put a plan in action to achieve the needed outcome then step up. Make a decision and try to gain or keep your credibility by sharing why you are making this decision. Admit you don’t know it all but you are willing to be the R.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”  – Michael Korda

If you are open, honest, responsible and accountable people will follow you. If you ride that collaborative train trying to make everyone happy for too long you just might look back and discover there is no one left to collaborate with.





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