Dissent is an obligation

By Bill Taylor via hbr.org   Article

True Leaders Believe Dissent Is an Obligation

“… Robin Richards, chair and CEO of the CareerArc Group, makes it clear how he wants his colleagues to behave. ‘Don’t have a meeting with your boss where you agree with him on everything he says,’ Richards explained. ‘If you have an obligation to dissent, then we get the best minds and we get the best outcomes. People like living in that environment. They feel valuable. People become fearless.’

Truth be told, very few people have the guts to dissent, very few people become fearless, because very few leaders emphasize and celebrate their obligation to do so. Edgar Schein, professor emeritus at MIT Sloan School of Management and an expert on leadership and culture, has spent decades studying the attributes that define great executives. One of the attributes he highlights time and again is humility — the sort that invites dissent. Sadly, that kind of humility is all too rare.

Schein once asked a group of students what it means to be promoted to the rank of manager. ‘They said without hesitation, ‘It means I can now tell others what to do.’’ That’s precisely the know-it-all style of leadership that has led to so much crisis and disappointment. ‘Deep down, many of us believe that if you are not winning, you are losing,’ Schein warns. The ‘tacit assumption’ among executives ‘is that life is fundamentally and always a competition.’ But humility and ambition, he argues, need not be at odds. Instead, humility in the service of ambition is the most effective and sustainable mindset for leaders who aspire to do big things in a world filled with huge unknowns.”

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