Some leaders show two faces (and some show many more) when it comes to dealing with a challenging and contentious issue.
They strongly declare and advocate their position to various audiences, but after “selling time” takes its toll with a barrage of dissenting views, they change their mind.
They decide that expending the emotional energy to convince others of their position isn’t worth the effort.
Politicians do it all the time; they switch positions on the run when they learn that their original stance is either unpopular or was ill thought through in the first place.
The “many faces of leadership” displays acquiescence in its finest form; the end game is not necessarily based on principles the leader is passionately and emotionally invested in, rather the objective is to try and appease as many people possible with the hope that dissent among the masses is minimized and a short term advantage for the leader is gained.
It may be the case that few feathers are ruffled, but the leader achieves little progress as they spend all their time selling, defending and switching their position.
The fallout is that the leader is branded indecisive, weak and one who flits about without landing on anything.
They live in the moment; they have no tomorrow in sight.
Leaders DO need to be able to flex given the varying circumstances they face during the process of trying to gain support for their idea.
1. New information that affects the decision taken comes to light. Facts that were unknown when the position was formulated present themselves and cannot be ignored. This could be characterized as insufficient analysis or incomplete study of all the relevant information that should be considered in taking a position. That said, the intent should not be to lay blame but rather take the new information and integrate it into the decision making process and not dismiss it because “it is too late to incorporate it into the mix”.
2. Employee feedback is loud and compelling in terms of implementation challenges as well as uncontemplated impacts on individuals and their lives. If, for example, frontline employees give the decision a thumbs down in terms of their ability to implement it, pay attention and take a second look. A bold decision which may be theoretically sound but which cannot be executed in the real world must be reconsidered. Always listen to the “warriors” who are in the field who know what is possible and what is not.
3. “The unexpected” rears its ugly head. A random and unpredictable eventsuddenly occurs, forcing a reconsideration of the direction on the table. In the uncertain and unpredictable markets organizations face today, there will always be unanticipated factors that make themselves visible and which challenge the wisdom of the original decision. These forces need to be taken seriously and should always create a pause to reassess any declared position.
A decision to tweak the leader’s original position is always the better path to take as opposed to steadfastly sticking to a decision which is at risk given new events that have emerged.
Under circumstances like these, a switch in position may be required.
Strategically schizophrenic leaders change their minds with purpose.
They “flex with purpose”, and weave their morphed proposal through the organization with the singular purpose of achieving their intended outcome as best they can given the changes they made to it.
There are many potential routes to a destination despite the forces that prevent it from being achieved the original way it was intended; the standout leader is willing to strategically change HOW they arrive at the prescribed destination.
Mindlessly adhering to a position even though in light of “feedback” it’s success is highly in doubt, is irresponsible.
On the other hand, progress is NOT served by a constant stream of reactive tweaks or adjustments that shatter the picture of the journey’s end.
As a leader, pick a destination you believe in and be strategically schizophrenic in seeking the outcome that best suits the conditions of the time.
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