Leadership is More than the Sum of the Team Members’ Parts

group-vote-16A manager called a meeting of five persons and reported, “A customer has requested that we modify the specifications on an order in process.  We have to decide upon the most efficient way to make the adjustments.”

The manager asked each person for suggestions.  Three options quickly emerged but there was passionate disagreement on which option was best.  Although team members professionally poked and prodded each option at length, they could not get on the same page.

Eventually, the manager said, “How many can support Option A?”  Two people said they could.  Two supported Option B and only one supported Option C.

“OK,” the manager said, “we’ll eliminate Option C.  How many support Option A?”  Two said they could.  Three said that between the two options, they leaned toward Option B.  The manager chose Option B.

The team began executing Option B but quickly became frustrated.  Members fell back to supporting their original suggestions and several said they never believed that Option B was the way to go.

When making complex decisions, I think leaders should listen to suggestions from appropriate people.  But I do not think a majority vote is the way to reconcile differences.  Group votes may lead to options that most can accept.  But acceptance does not necessarily lead to commitment.

Effective leaders make the decision.  If the decision works, the team gets a lot of credit.  If the decision fails, we hold the leader accountable.  That is the way it works.


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