Many of us become leaders because we have good ideas - a successful startup, at its core, is an innovative idea - but the strength of our thinking can also be a liability. We can become too firm of believers in our own ideas. As a business grows, its needs and challenges change, and leaders who get too caught up in their own thinking may overlook the problems or opportunities that begin to arise as they add more employees.
While everyone's style is bound to be different, many great leaders choose to take a collaborative approach that brings in as many voices as possible. Doing this can be a challenge if you're accustomed to following much of the leadership advice out there - the blog posts that stress organization and delegation and simplifying your thinking. These approaches are often useful, but you can quickly begin to place too much emphasis on your character as a leader and not enough focus on your role. A recent Inc. blog post by entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan summed up the value of an approach that takes the time to bring in other voices.
"Leadership is at least as much about noticing other people - their needs, talents, and aspirations - as about interrogating and improving yourself," Heffernan wrote. "A healthy, humble curiosity puts you in a stronger position to understand and engage with the world. Personal development is a part of leadership, but it's only one part."
How to bring in other voices
It may seem intuitive, but the style of leadership Heffernan described begins with a desire to listen - not just acknowledging that something has been said, but actively seeking out new voices. In a recent New York Times interview, Richard Solomons, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group, explained his instinct to respond to input from others is by noting it and moving on. He said that he previously tended to talk too much, but that he now takes the time in meetings to solicit each employee's thoughts before shifting to a new topic.
"For me leadership is about empowering other people," he added. "At the end of the day you have people around you that you can trust. I want to have people who know more about what they are doing than I do."
By taking the time and implementing tools that make it easy to solicit other opinions such as screen share and unified communications, and bring in new ideas, leaders can get a more thorough picture of how their decisions are affecting different end results. Through this type of collaborative leadership, we can position ourselves to keep generating great ideas.