The Journey Blog

Reflections on the art of leading

Leadership Shaped for the Future, Part 3

Is good leadership really counter-intuitive?

One best leadership practice I would put in this category is: a tolerance for dissent.

Again the enduring myth, and prevailing model in the West, is that the real leader is the person who gets things done by the most efficient means possible in the shortest amount of time, pushing his agenda past any and all opposition. It is about minimizing or ignoring any opposing voices and, using super salesmanship followed by high octane motivation, pressing ahead even if doing so leaves a trail of bodies.

But tolerance for dissent is actually a higher level of leadership, and maturity, and fosters long-term effectiveness in developing leaders and organizations. It's the quality of strength under control, which takes both great strength and true humility.

The leader who sets a tone of healthy tolerance for dissent is not threatened by disagreement, and believes that if one's ideas really are best, they will stand up to critique and examination. The humble-strong leader knows it is worth the time it takes to discover whether an initiative is likely to endure, and if so, it will emerge stronger from the process of constructive critique. This leader also knows it builds trust among the team—it is neither playing the tyrant nor throwing in the towel.

Author Patrick Lencioni named this quality in The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. He makes a compelling case for his thesis, and I highly recommend his book to anyone seeking to lead in an organization and to foster a healthy leadership and organizational culture.