The expression lead, follow, or get out of the way has more than a kernel of truth to it.
Leaders must lead. They cannot bog themselves down in the morass of consensus building.
As the etymology of the word consensus indicates (with + thinking) it waters down decisions as a result of compromise and giving weight to the opinions of those who enjoy giving input but have nothing to back it up. That’s because consensus practitioners attempt to incorporate as many individuals into the process as possible, giving all equal input in an attempt to reach the best possible solution for the group. Consensus is compromise.
But why hinder your group with a watered down, compromise decision, especially one that takes time to reach, when the quicker cycling of decision making gives your group a distinct advantage in both the market and in negotiations with contracting opposites?
Note that I am not saying that leaders should not seek input and opinions from other members of the group, from the most senior to the most junior. That’s always valuable in that it helps develop new ideas, tactics and strategies. But that is very different from seeking a consensus among those queried.
The next time someone in your group suggests that you build consensus, remind them that the word starts with “con” and that they are just fooling themselves.
Comment or contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.
Mark F. Weiss