One of the Most Debilitating Myths About Leadership


We almost hired TH for the job. He would have made a lot of money — maybe $400,000 a year. TH had a very impressive résumé and said almost everything right in the interview. The stumper? When my partner asked him how he would handle a specific problem, he replied: “My approach would be to assemble the key management team, interview them for ideas, and then look for a solution that we all liked and could get behind.” “I didn’t like that answer at all,” BB told me. Trusted friend and adviser BK agreed. “That’s the kiss of death,” he said. “A consensus builder.”
Contrary to what some business gurus say, consensus decisions aren’t usually better than individual ones. Acquiring a consensus is an inward-looking objective — it solves the wrong problem. It answers the question “What solution can I get everyone to live with?” rather than “What solution is best for the long-term health of the business?” Consensus makers are politicians. They focus on group dynamics, on finding ideas that please people.
Great business leaders are not politicians at all. In fact, the political instinct is almost opposite of the business instinct. A good leader wants to identify the best decision and then sell that decision to as many of his key people as he can. Once he’s achieved a working quorum — a support group sufficient to make the idea work — he no longer worries about (or spends his valuable time on) getting everyone on board. He figures, “Get the solution in place and the dissenters will see that it works and come around.”