Disagreement Is a Path Toward Insight

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Let’s stick with this disagreement theme a little longer because it’s rooted in a core Leadership truth.

Leaders often fear disagreement for any number of reasons; it takes time, they know better, insecurity, some simply need to be right… But let’s be clear. What’s the core truth beneath this issue? Disagreement requires us to actually lead and that looks a lot like work.

The reality is, it’s easy to lead people who agree with you, even entertaining. It’s effortless and positive, and a path of least resistance… but leading people who disagree is an incredible hassle. True Leadership doesn’t even show up until there is some kind of challenge, adversity or obstacle; without it, there is no leadership, just hierarchy.

There are too many weak leaders who over-simplify their reality and claim “either you are with me or against me.” Hogwash! Even worse, they think everyone they lead should follow their every word as if it’s gospel or brilliant and infallible. If I exaggerate, it’s not by much; and such blind following is an incredibly dangerous sentiment in any relationship, especially leadership. Such “leaders” aren’t leaders at all, they’re dictators. Many of them may be benevolent dictators, but just because you’re kind doesn’t make it less dictatorial.

  • Leadership doesn’t create followers, it creates more leaders. 
  • Leadership is about bringing people together and allowing disagreements to teach your teams to think, to problem-solve, and to cultivate better communication skills which can only make your team better and build trust.
  • Disagreement is a path toward insight, exponential growth, and improvement of people.

Sometimes a decision needs to be made and your team is diametrically opposed, so often this phrase enters the fray: “Well, we must agree to disagree.” Such a response avoids the conversation needing to be had, and comes across as a copout; that doesn’t have to be the case. If we are in a professional business setting and everyone is relatively free of defensive emotions about the given plans, then with better questions, we can unpack the conflict further and this disagreement may lead to great insights about your company. By learning what it is they see that we don’t see, by unpacking their fears, we can better understand the situation and prepare better for it. As leaders, there is a lot we are missing from our vantage point, and we need others’ perspectives to help point that out. And while that disagreement may persist, it could – and usually should – lead you to a better implementation of your plan. If those you trust resist, honor it because others will as well. So let the disagreement affect your implementation. 

Likely the person who is disagreeing with you isn’t the only one with a different idea. There are certainly others that are afraid to even speak up. Honor others by honoring the opinion of those who do have the courage to speak up, it helps everyone feel heard. Taking into account everyone’s perspective and letting it influence you is a mark of great leadership.