Avoiding the Pitfalls of Consensus Leadership

Consensus-Leadership-PitfallsDo you favor consensus leadership?

If you’re anything like the employees I talk to, you do. Most people will say they prefer consensus-run organizations, where a leader uses inclusion and feedback to manage democratically. Who wouldn’t? Especially if you think of the alternative tyrant or dictator who issues stern orders. A consensus-style leader is a refreshing alternative! But just like anything else taken to extreme, consensus-style leadership can create numerous pitfalls.

A consensus-style leader wants everyone to feel valued and happy. Nothing wrong with that, except, these apparent benefits may be dwarfed by their inherent traps, creating the very unhappiness they strive to prevent. I have seen overly inclusive leaders unwittingly sabotage their efforts.

Let me explain. Often seen as mediators or peacekeepers, consensus-style leaders seek a calm, cooperative environment. They disdain conflict and disunity, experiencing a sense of well-being only when everyone gets along. They seek to maintain a spirit of togetherness and happiness, going out of their way to ensure people’s needs are met.

Unlike tyrants or compulsive leaders, mediators put their people’s needs ahead of their own. They accept a more behind-the-scenes role, according to Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, author of The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017). Peacekeepers don’t want prominence or attention, just the satisfaction that everyone is productive, pleased and supportive.

To keep the peace, consensus-style leaders give people equal consideration by seeking their input and concerns. They welcome all ideas and suggestions so the team can come to agreement and keep the majority happy. Leaders mediate disagreements to avoid strife, often forgoing their own preferences and desires. But as Dr. Chestnut explains, such sacrifices may unintentionally reduce overall team effectiveness, morale and progress.

In my next post, I’ll dive in to the advantages (yes, there are many) and disadvantages of this type of leadership. In the meantime, what do you think? What has been your experience with consensus-style leadership? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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