When I sat down to write this article, I planned to write about how to change your mind without it being perceived as "flip-flopping" or being fickle. I was inspired by a recent Planet Money episode in praise of flip-floppers. Through the example of three individuals, the episode shows that despite its negative connotation, changing course is brave: It means we are asking questions and correcting ourselves. But within moments of sitting down to write, I discovered that this exact article had already been written.
So, I changed my mind.
On a related topic, I wondered, if you change your mind, are you still seen as a good leader? Could the ability to change your mind actually make you a better leader? A look at some of history's greatest leaders would suggest it so. In changing their minds, Abraham Lincoln and Ford Motor Company chief Alan Mulally enacted global change.
Here are four ways changing your mind makes you a better leader, and how to be more comfortable doing it:
1. You're better at making decisions about the future
Research has shown that people who are more cognitively flexible -- or more open to and able to change their minds -- are able to better predict future outcomes. Typically, people are bad at estimating and forecasting because they fail to collect and understand information. This might be due to a conscious decision or a subconscious bias. When you're making decisions about people, your offering, or your organization, you're making a prediction about what may yield the best outcome. Make a deliberate effort to assess all information you receive, even if it seems discrepant with previous information or your beliefs.
2. You're more nimble
According to one network scientist, our knowledge is constantly decaying. In fact, there is actually a field of science called scientometrics that studies this decay quantitatively. Most of the knowledge on which we base business decisions changes over time, and slowly. People who are able to update their knowledge database with new information make better leaders. Nimble learning--learning quickly, being open to the unfamiliar, and taking new experiences as learning opportunities--correlates with higher performance. Instead of memorizing information, commit to lifelong learning and frequently look up changing facts.
3. It makes you a better listener
During the UK's last election cycle, Theresa May made history by being the first political party to go back on a manifesto before being elected. After receiving negative feedback on an exit poll, the conservative party changed its stance on a health care initiative. While this was controversial, it demonstrated that the party was listening to people's reactions. Especially given their political climate, a leader who is open to change based on feedback (rather than obstinately sticking to her own opinions), could come across as more receptive. Don't wait for feedback to find you. Instead, actively collect information about how your leadership decisions and style are resonating. When responses are negative, show that you are changing your course and explain why.
4. It encourages better decision-making across your team
According to a cultural anthropologist, our resistance to change may be partly fueled by our fear of it. This not only holds us back, but also holds back the organizations we work for. As leaders, it's important for us to make it more comfortable for employees to seek and accept change, and one way we can do so is by accepting it--and even inviting it--ourselves. Doing so encourages people to openly share new ideas, thus creating a more innovative atmosphere and end result.
It is often difficult to change your mind, especially if it means you need to admit and explain the change. But don't let this prevent you from doing it. It will make you a better, more effective leader. And if you didn't believe it before, hopefully I've succeeded in changing your mind.