In a piece for Forbes, Kate Harrison identifies what she sees as common mistakes that “turn good people into bad bosses,” and first on her list is “Being too inclusive.” She explains:
I grew up in an ultra-liberal, huggy, “everyone wins” environment, and so my default position is to seek lots of advice and build consensus when facing a difficult decision. . . . However, the desire to get everyone to agree can backfire when there are significant differences of opinion, strength of character, ability to express themselves, and orneryness in a group. Instead of moving forward efficiently, consensus building can actually derail a team, engender resentments, and lead to stagnation.
Yeah, I’ve been there
Harrison’s bio line describes her as an eco-friendly writer and entrepreneur who has built a business around helping people to plan “green friendly” weddings. She’s obviously traveled in some of these crunchy granola circles, and I can sympathize.
I agree that consensus building approaches can go too far. There are times when a leader has to make a decision, and there are times when it’s time to call for a vote — instead of going around the room for more endless yammering that only prolongs the misery.
But here’s the bigger problem
Nevertheless, I submit that being too exclusive is a much more common mistake for so many people in leadership positions.
Sometimes bosses start that way, coming in with an agenda based on biased impressions or inaccurate information. They’ve already pre-programmed themselves to disregard certain points of view about how to best run the organization.
Others start out being somewhat more inclusive, but then they circle the wagons and stop listening to voices that offer different viewpoints or perspectives. For some this occurs almost unconsciously; inside, they still think of themselves as “inclusive” leaders.
And the more inexperienced and insecure the boss, the more likely this is to happen.
It’s about balance
Being an organizational leader is difficult work, whether it’s in a small department or a large institution. Achieving the right balance between inclusivity and exclusivity is one of the toughest challenges of all. Maintaining an ongoing awareness of that tension is the best that most of us can do.