The consultative leader problem

This is a classic stumbling block for many leaders.Whether you are new to leadership or a relatively old hat it seems common that a lot of people miss the mark on when to consult people and when specify.

Leaders that specify 99.9% of the time still achieve good results, especially if they are leading in their field of expertise.The problem is that the people around them usually feel stymied in their roles.Without flexibility in how people complete work and the ability to innovatethese teams over time become robotic to tasking, they stop trying to contribute.Usually the high performers that drive for excellence have left to find teams they can contribute to.

On the other side of the coin are leaders consulting people too much.Everything becomes a team decision.In these cases team members initially feel involved and listened to.Over time though the team has practices in place which are counter productive and sometimes destructive to the team as a whole.This can occur because even in well managed collaboration sessions often the loudest and most influential team members get changes made.They aren’t always the right changes.Bad practices may also come into existence from general ignorance of what is best.Its not uncommon for people to have opinions and ideas on topics they are not expert in. The other issue that arises is a general confusion in leadership; people can interpret your lack of leading as weakness or incompetence. Some can use this to get their own agendas met while others just get lost in confusion about who is in charge.


A suggestion:Lets start by looking in the mirror.You are the leader right?You have found your way to the role your in because you have knowledge and skills.Without becoming arrogant, keep reminding yourself of your knowledge and skills.Compare them with others and find clarity on the following:

  • What you know that others don’t.
  • What you’re good at that others may not be.
  • What does your role make you responsible for (e.g. Tasking people)
  • What others know that you don’t.
  • What others are good at that you can learn from.


This list is in general what you should specify to others and what you should consult on.Of course communicating politely what you’re specifying is a challenge unto itself.Also consider specifying the goal posts or ground rules and consult in between them.Your team will often come up with great ideaswithin the bounds you define; Win-Win.


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