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Are You a Consensus Leader or Dictator?

By: Dave Berkus



It’s a good bet that you’ve been exposed to articles, courses and lectures about various styles of management. You’ve read how each is appropriate for some companies and for some levels of organization and at various times.

When should the dictator in you emerge?

A consensus-building leader works well in that style until someone yells “fire!” Suddenly, the emergency requires a dictatorial style of management to act quickly, protecting lives.

Different organizations require different styles

If you’ve ever been on the board of a non-profit organization, especially one in education, you know that a dictatorial style of management has no place in the organization (again unless there is an emergency requiring life-saving decisions). In the non-profit sector, all decisions move slower. This frustrates many board members who are business tycoons or entrepreneurs used to making rapid, final decisive moves in the workplace.

Bold leadership decisions as a norm

But wait a minute. Is it appropriate for managers in any business to make a habit of making rapid, decisive moves as a matter of style? In a past insight, I used the phrase: “Bet the farm only when the crops are on fire!” to underline the risk in making continuous bold decisions that obligate a company’s resources in a single transaction.

The argument for consensus leadership

It is much more appropriate and certainly more appreciated if you take the time to bring your direct reports along in the thinking process. Obtain their input with issues that affect them. Attempt to gain consensus from the leadership team before moving into implementing decisions where risk is involved or where the others are affected.

An additional benefit from consensus leadership

Many a time I have thought a solution was obvious until one of my board members, peers or direct reports pointed out a facet of the problem not previously considered. Bold decisions seem to reflect strong leadership. But more often, they reflect a deficiency in willingness to cede power to the group unless for some reason necessary to withhold that power.

The wiser choice of management style

A decision made by consensus is probably a wiser decision. It’s surely one that will be received down the line with more willingness to implement it than one posted as an order. Orders come from somewhere in the minds of most people below direct reports. And there is no better way to destroy a company’s culture than having the majority of those in the workforce believing that they are just “workin’ for the man” (woman) when they start their work each day…

Published: March 10, 2020

Source: Berkonomics

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Dave Berkus

Dave Berkus is a noted speaker, author and early stage private equity investor. He is acknowledged as one of the most active angel investors in the country, having made and actively participated in over 87 technology investments during the past decade. He currently manages two angel VC funds (Berkus Technology Ventures, LLC and Kodiak Ventures, L.P.) Dave is past Chairman of the Tech Coast Angels, one of the largest angel networks in the United States. Dave is author of “Basic Berkonomics,” “Berkonomics,” “Advanced Berkonomics,” “Extending the Runway,” and the Small Business Success Collection. Find out more at Berkus.com or contact Dave at dberkus@berkus.com

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