Why disagreement is a good thing

She’s tough, stylish, and somewhat scary – but I like her strength, passion and fortitude.

Anna Wintour is a fashion icon like no other.  Renowned as the editor of Vogue, the inspiration for the popular book and film The Devil Wears Prada, and for her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach, she’s a woman who is both revered and admired.

Anna Wintour - editor of Vogue

Anna Wintour has been the editor-in-chief of American Vogue since 1988.

I recently read an article where Wintour declared she looked for strong employees, who are not afraid to oppose her views.

It reminded me that as leaders, we not only need to encourage people to disagree with us, but we also must provide a platform which allows the free exchange of ideas to happen.

If your employees, team members, or colleagues, seem reluctant to offer conflicting opinions to yours, then it might be time to ask yourself the following questions:

Am I giving people enough opportunity to discuss their ideas with me?

How have I reacted on previous occasions, when someone disagreed with me? Do I listen with an open mind or do I shut them down?

How often do I change course after listening to another’s viewpoint?

Am I exuding a ‘too tough for comment’ persona?

Too tough for comment persona - The Leader's Digest

Are you exuding a too tough for comment persona?                     Image Source: Flickr Commons

If any of these questions resonate with you, you may be creating an environment conducive to ‘group think’ and it may be time to take stock, and re-evaluate this area of your leadership.

Some ideas for encouraging varied viewpoints and healthy debate include:

·         Adopting a self-imposed ‘listen with an open mind’ mantra before any meeting

·         Creating processes in meetings which encourage divergent thinking such as brainstorming or structured rounds.

·         Asking others’ opinions before offering your own

·         Regularly adopting questions which actively encourage debate, such as “If we were to play devil’s advocate to this/my idea, what would we say…?”

As Mahatma Gandhi once said – “honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”

1 Comment

  1. […] is not only unavoidable, it’s healthy. Differing opinions and divergent thinking is a GOOD thing.  Without conflict, you have groupthink, you repress innovation, and you discourage […]

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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