Consensus decision-making is often touted as a panacea for what ails a business by increasing employee participation and engagement.
But, like most things in business and in life, too much of a good thing can actually do more harm than good.
As we all know, trying to get a group of people to agree on anything can be, as they say, like trying to herd cats.
And, while there are some well documented techniques for consensus building, my intention here is not to describe or discuss them.
My intention, rather, is to address the mindset that drives leaders to pursue consensus and discuss what you should be doing instead.
The compulsive or obligatory need for consensus is a disease of today's addled mind, a product of confused and confusing times.
When people don't know what to do or what to believe, it's convenient and comforting to ask others to tell them. There's safety in numbers, as the saying goes.
But a leader who asks others what direction to take, what values to believe in, what purposes the business should be pursuing is not leading; he is, in fact, abdicating leadership.
The prerequisite of sound leadership is first knowing where you want to go.
Being truly interested in your employees' opinions and what they want is both admirable and necessary, but it is not the starting point. Knowing what you want and the direction your business is pursuing must come first.
As an entrepreneur who is creating a business idea come to life, the Vision must be yours. You cannot delegate it or abdicate it.
Let's be clear: As an entrepreneur and leader, you must organize your thoughts first, and then your business. Because the organization of your thoughts creates the foundation and guiding principles for the organization of your business.
Trying to get staff consensus around any particular idea, tactic, strategy, or direction will be fruitless unless they are operating from a singular, unifying foundation.
And providing that unifying foundation, communicating it in word and deed, through compelling stories and bold actions, is the leader's role.
Asking employees to reach consensus in a leadership vacuum is, actually, worse than fruitless. It's a recipe for derailing any possibility for forward momentum and creating a confusing morass of meaningless activity.
In short, your role as a leader, as the guiding force and inspirational pillar of your enterprise, cannot be delegated or shared.
And it definitely cannot be abdicated.
It cannot, therefore, rely on being consensus-seeking or consensus-driven.
Leadership, before seeking agreement from others, begins with reaching agreement with yourself.