While it might be true that good leaders excel at consistently making good decisions, great leaders try to involve others in the process, at least when there's the time and opportunity to do so.
That's according to John Canfield, management consultant and author of Think or Sink: A Parable of Collaboration. Canfield says leaders fall into one of three categories: the competitor, the accommodator, or the collaborator. Whereas the competitor isn't worried about getting buy-in from others before making a decision, the accommodator is overly concerned with it. As a result, neither achieves an optimal outcome.
In contrast, the collaborator gets input from others who have ideas that can help make the best decision or who can support the decision later down the road.
"The principle that you're taking advantage of here is people support what they help create," Canfield says. "And so, assuming I have the time for dialogue, I would want to get this group involved in not only coming up with the ideas but then sharing the ideas to some sort of a scoreboard, some listing of a goal. When the team can have that kind of conversation--I'm going to call it robust dialogue--and when they're truly collaborating, the best idea wins."
The Power of Robust Dialogue (a.k.a. Brainstorming)
A simple brainstorming session can do the trick, but these three kinds of leaders may handle these sessions differently.
A competitive leader might sit at the head of a table and ask people to voice their input in an environment of social pressure. Even if a decision is made, little buy-in accompanies it.
A session led by an accommodator might be more enjoyable and include things like snacks and lots of encouragement, but the goal the team is working toward may be unclear and the quality of ideas may suffer.
To be a collaborative leader and get far better results, Canfield suggests first visually delineating desired results on a scoreboard and giving team members five minutes to write ideas for a decision on Post-it notes in silence, with no social pressure. When the time's up, gather the group around a flipchart or white board and take turns offering individual notes, which can then be collaboratively organized and compared with the goals defined at the outset of the meeting.
"So in a much shorter period of time, I get a data-driven decision about what our goals are that everybody contributed to. And because it was on Post-its, I'm able to move the data around and make it more useful," he says.