The Advantages and Disadvantages of Consensus-Style Leadership

Working for someone who favors consensus-style leadership may seem fairly innocuous and even desirable, but if you work for a consensus-style leader, you may have experienced the frustrations and inherent problems.

I wrote about this in a previous post. Often seen as mediators or peacekeepers, consensus-style leaders want everyone to feel valued and happy. Working for one offers some significant benefits. They:  

  • Attempt to understand people’s perspectives and needs to ensure they’re affirmed and pleased
  • Avoid becoming angry to prevent discouragement or upset
  • Solicit each person’s input and ideas to avoid feelings of exclusion or disillusionment
  • Mediate disagreements to help the team find unity and safety
  • Give of themselves, often setting aside personal preferences for the common good
  • Make themselves available for discussion or assistance
  • Help each person contribute to team success without favoritism
  • Influence through diplomacy to avoid offending people
  • Shrug off personal credit to recognize others
  • Avoid blaming others and focus on solutions

As healthy as this work environment may seem, working for a consensus-minded leader has several potential drawbacks:

  • Leaders tend to hold back their opinions to avoid disunity, which diminishes their authority and ability to lead firmly
  • They avoid conflicts they fear may be too difficult to handle, which permits underlying trouble to brew and makes unity tougher to maintain in the long run
  • They take less initiative when outcomes may not sit well with everyone, thereby missing opportunities for improvement or success
  • They struggle with decisions when they fail to achieve consensus, eroding trust in their leadership
  • Their indecisiveness limits progress, thwarting people’s efforts to complete assigned tasks
  • They keep the peace by giving answers they believe people want—but not need—to hear, causing errors in direction, judgment and outcomes
  • They skirt around constructive feedback instead of clearly explaining how employee performance must improve
  • They fail to offer directives when the team incorrectly prioritizes tasks
  • They disfavor change, especially if it may disrupt the comforting status quo
  • They ignore their personal needs as they tend to everyone else, thereby inviting fatigue, anger, resentment or burnout

What do you think? Do the disadvantages of consensus-style leadership outweigh the benefits? What has been your experience? I’d love to hear from you.   You can contact me via my websiteLinkedIn and Twitter

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