One of the hallmarks of great leaders is that they do not confuse their personal opinion with fact. Some of the most productivity-killing breakdowns happen when we treat our view of any matter as an empirically provable fact. “It’s hot in here” is an assessment and therefore cannot be proven or disproven empirically. You may be warm, but that does not mean anyone else is. “It is 78 degrees in here” or “I am uncomfortably warm” are assertions which may be true or false, but may be empirically measured.
When a leader treats his assessments as assertions, debate is effectively shut down and collaboration screeches to a halt. There is a big difference between “I am concerned about the risk for this project. I do not think we have the chops for it.” And “It’s too risky”. In the first, the speaker takes responsibility for her own concerns and states her opinion, which may or may not be accurate in fact. Conversation and debate are possible. It may be that she will still not approve the investment; however, she will not have demoralized the team making the proposal.
Leaders, like everyone else, are entitled to their opinions. In fact, a lot of a leader’s value proposition is in he judgment born of experience that creates a well informed opinion. As a leader, you have to determine to what extent you want you opinions dictating the rules of engagement in your organization.
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