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Leadership Thought #285 – Compromise Doesn’t Mean Weakness


As a student of leadership it both frustrates and saddens me how rare compromise is these days in public and professional circles.  Our society was built based on a foundation of a win-win mindset.   Our founding fathers certainly had a wide range of differing opinions on how to structure our country and government, but after rigorous discussion and debate they were able to come together around a common set of principles and compromise to launch this new nation.  Of course some of them were visionaries and idealists, but they were also pragmatists and realists. They fully understood that while it may take a small group of people to start something, it ultimately requires a majority to see it through to fruition. Win-lose never works in the long term.

No one person is ever always right or always wrong.  Some people may have a better track record than others, but the moment they start believing in their own infallibility and consider themselves beyond reproach, they become vulnerable to the vagaries and nuances of life.  Moreover, they foster the resentment and the waning support of others who often wait/hope for them to fail and validate their own position.  In my experience, groups with a diverse composition of membership usually make better decisions than any one individual.  The landscape of history is full of failed dictatorships while democracies continue to persist.

Admitting you don’t know enough about something to make a good decision is a sign of wisdom.  Being open to alternative points of view and challenging you own conceits is the pathway to professional maturity.  Listening without judgment is a prerequisite for effective leadership. Arguing for the sake of arguing or being unyielding in your positions is sign of emotional immaturity and intellectual bravado.   This doesn’t mean that you don’t remain steadfast to core principles or have some non-negotiables, but if everything fits this description, then you are nothing more than a roadblock to success and progress.

All organizations are held together by their center not their polar opposites.  There is a time for debate and time for compromise.  There is a time to be cautious and time to take action.  You will never make everyone happy all the time, but you should engender confidence in most of your colleagues and subordinates that you strive to make well though out decisions after seeking critical feedback, weighing all the important variables and finding a common space of agreement. Compromise doesn’t mean weakness it connotes self-confidence and a commitment to something more important than your own ego and insecurities.

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