If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
In fact, my imperfect research has not been able to substantiate this quote, but it nevertheless falls under the category of “well if he didn’t say it, he should have!” Because it’s a useful principle for every leader to keep in mind! Clearly, there are times when seeking input and obtaining consensus from your team and other stakeholders is not only important, it’s critical. But there are also instances when it’s crucial that you stand up, step out, and make decisions that are contrary to what the majority thinks or wants. Otherwise there is a risk that you can fall into the trap of doing the wrong thing really well. In situations such as these, it can sometimes be essential to consider a divergent course and follow an unpopular path.
It’s important to own the unpopular decision. The truth is that people, particularly those who are not intimate with the problem, usually aren’t very good at articulating solutions. But if carefully questioned, they can certainly tell you what they need – what they like, what they don’t like, what the obstacles are, what they wish for, and what they’re trying to accomplish. Use this information to justify the unpopular decision to yourself, but don’t feel the need to justify it to others. Making tough calls is what exceptional leaders do!
Have you found yourself in such a situation. Was it difficult to be contrary? And was it the right decision at the end? Please share!