The Traps of Consensus-Style Leadership

Most employees I have talked to favor consensus-run organizations, where a leader uses inclusion and feedback to manage democratically. Who wouldn’t? A consensus-style leader is a refreshing alternative to a dictator or tyrant who issues stern orders. But just like anything else taken to extreme, consensus-style leadership can also create numerous frustrations for direct reports.

Leaders who advocate for consensus want everyone to feel valued and happy. Unfortunately, these apparent benefits may be dwarfed by their inherent traps, creating the very unhappiness they strive to prevent. I have seen overly inclusive leaders unwittingly sabotage their own efforts.

Often seen as mediators or peacekeepers, consensus-style leaders seek a calm, cooperative environment. They disdain conflict and disunity, experiencing a sense of well-being only when everyone gets along. They seek to maintain a spirit of togetherness and happiness, going out of their way to ensure people’s needs are met.

Unlike tyrants or compulsive leaders, mediators put their people’s needs ahead of their own. They accept a more behind-the-scenes role, according to Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, author of The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017). Peacekeepers don’t want prominence or attention, just the satisfaction that everyone is productive, pleased and supportive.

To keep the peace, consensus-style leaders give people equal consideration by seeking their input and concerns. They welcome all ideas and suggestions so the team can come to agreement and keep the majority happy. Leaders mediate disagreements to avoid strife, often forgoing their own preferences and desires. But as Dr. Chestnut explains, such sacrifices may unintentionally reduce overall team effectiveness, morale and progress.

The next time I cover this topic, I’ll dive in to the advantages and disadvantages of this type of leadership. In the meantime, what do you think? What has been your experience with consensus-style leadership? I’d love to hear from you.   You can contact me via my websiteLinkedIn and Twitter

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