Leadership is a delicate balance between building consensus and taking charge. This week is not my own. I am sharing the kitchen, our bedroom, the bath, my study, and every other square inch of my world with my niece and nephew—ten and seven respectively. Since we are not their parents, Dianne and I are free to negotiate a few of the decisions, e.g. where to eat lunch, what's for dinner, and which movie we watch over pizza.
Finalizing the pizza order ranks as one of my more difficult decision-making challenges. One person wants olives, one pepperoni. One wants extra cheese. One wants hamburger, one mushrooms, another peppers. No one wants it all at once, except Dianne. Since my job is to lead (and buy), it is also my job to build consensus so that when the pizza arrives we are ready to enjoy the movie.
On the other hand, just before entering the guitar center to purchase a microphone for my podcast, I took charge. I instructed on what we were about to see and do, what we could touch and not fiddle with, etc. and I did so with clarity that indicated there was no intent on my part to negotiate or seek consensus.
Leaders lead. Building consensus is about establishing mutual respect, valuing talent, and recognizing the ingenuity of other people in order to craft a course of action. Taking charge is about efficiency, safety, and security. Leadership is not either/or; it is both/and. Therein is the primary challenge.
We all want to be led whether we are children visiting our aunt and uncle, employees working for “the man,” or board members serving to achieve the greater good. Leaders know this, choose the correct style for the situation, and lead.