The Pros and Cons of Consensus Leadership

Pros-Cons-Consensus-LeadershipWhen I hear people complain that their leaders are bordering on solicitous behaviors, being too concerned about including everyone in every decision, it makes me wonder: are they experiencing the cons of consensus leadership?

Working for someone who favors consensus-style leadership may seem fairly innocuous and even desirable, but those who do are quick to point out the frustrations and inherent problems.

I wrote about this in my last post. Often seen as mediators or peacekeepers, consensus-style leaders want everyone to feel valued and happy. Working for one offers some significant benefits. They:

  • Attempt to understand people’s perspectives and needs to ensure they’re affirmed and pleased
  • Avoid becoming angry to prevent discouragement or upset
  • Solicit each person’s input and ideas to avoid feelings of exclusion or disillusionment
  • Mediate disagreements to help the team find unity and safety
  • Give of themselves, often setting aside personal preferences for the common good
  • Make themselves available for discussion or assistance
  • Help each person contribute to team success without favoritism
  • Influence through diplomacy to avoid offending people
  • Shrug off personal credit to recognize others
  • Avoid blaming others and focus on solutions

As healthy as this work environment may seem, working for a consensus-minded leader has several potential drawbacks:

  • Leaders tend to hold back their opinions to avoid disunity, which diminishes their authority and ability to lead firmly.
  • They avoid conflicts they fear may be too difficult to handle, which permits underlying trouble to brew and makes unity tougher to maintain in the long run.
  • They take less initiative when outcomes may not sit well with everyone. Passive leaders often miss opportunities for improvement or success.
  • They struggle with decisions when they fail to achieve consensus. People may then be reluctant to trust them, especially in tough times.
  • Their indecisiveness limits progress, thwarting people’s efforts to complete assigned tasks. This causes frustration and disengagement.
  • They keep the peace by giving answers they believe people want—but not need—to hear. This misinformation causes errors in direction, judgment and outcomes.
  • They skirt around constructive feedback instead of clearly explaining how employee performance must improve. Substandard work or attitudes go unaddressed, and a lack of corrective actions may threaten the organization’s well-being.
  • They fail to offer directives when the team incorrectly prioritizes tasks. They discredit their own expertise in a misguided attempt to empower their people, which may compromise goals and progress.
  • They disfavor change, especially if it may disrupt the comforting status quo. Organizations may fall behind.
  • They ignore their personal needs as they tend to everyone else, thereby inviting fatigue, anger, resentment or burnout.

What do you think? What has been your experience? The pros seemed to be outweighed by the cons. 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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