I was in the car with the boss. We were late for a meeting. A song came on the radio, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “I Won’t Back Down”.
Turning up the volume he shouted: “this is one of my favourites”, and then added with bashful pride: “I think it sums up my management style”.
He was clearly unaware of his reputation for being a bit of a wuss.
Aware or not, it shows that often, leaders are people who are confident in their convictions. Effective leaders don’t often suffer self doubt - but this doesn’t also mean that they never change their minds. It is quite an important distinction.
So how do you know when to stick to your guns and when to rethink your plans?
What is the difference between a leader who is focused and one who is blinkered, one who is strong and one who is simply rigid, one who demonstrates single-minded determination and one who is stubbornly obstinate? When does that lack of self doubt become misplaced arrogance? Which voices should you listen to and which should you ignore?
Being prepared to change your mind does not make you a weak or indecisive leader. But being unable to make your mind up makes you appear indecisive and changing your mind based on whoever you spoke to last makes you weak.
People expect a leader to be explicit in what they want to see happen and prepared to give the reasoning behind their decision. People don’t have to agree with a decision but they need to understand the thinking behind it. And having heard your reasoning, they may provide you with a new piece of information which may or may not cause you to think again.
Effective leaders are the ones who can respond to a necessary change in direction by taking the best decision for those they’re in charge of - even if it means turning 180 degrees.