Leadership is about pushing new ideas; it is about mobilizing and motivating people and getting them to act as a collective team. It’s about projecting commitment and expressing enthusiasm to get things done.
But sometimes a funny thing happens along the way.
A leader pauses and says, like the late, great Gilda Radner’s character Emily Litella, “Never mind.”
They may add, “I’m not sure we’re doing it right.” Or, “On second thought, why don’t we…?”
So, you're the founder of your company. You’ve put together a plan, evaluated alternatives, and then, suddenly, from nowhere another option appears. You’ve decided to eliminate a department, say, and people have packed their bags when you realize it’s a bad idea.
The Leader's Dilemma, and the Stigma of the Flip-flop
Your fundamental challenge as a leader is to be able to change your mind when required, without coming off as a flip-flopper.
I’m the first to admit that the term, “flip-flopper,” is no more than a political dig brought to you by campaign managers. But there is an important distinction between changing one’s mind and “flip-flopping.”
Being able to change one’s mind and alter course isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Do you really want to be a leader that moves ahead, full steam ahead without making adjustments?
Of course not.
Leadership is about making the tough decisions even when all the planes are in the air. Sometimes you have to have the nerve to say, “Come on back.”
The Five Bases You Have to Touch
On the other hand, you can't afford to lose your legitimacy by changing your mind constantly or altering your course every time the political winds shift. To change your mind while maintaining your credibility you have to keep the following steps in mind:
The ability to change your mind is an essential quality of leadership. Done well, the change of course looks like a moment of courage. You went to the precipice and had the strength to say, “Let’s turn back.” Done badly, the change of course looks like pure opportunism or lack of conviction, and your leadership credibility is left twisting in the wind.
The line between the two is thin. Which side you end up on depends essentially on how hard you work to keep others on your side when you make the move.