blog articlesWord & Deed

Collaboration Slows Leadership

We treat col­lab­o­ra­tion as if it’s sacred. But it has it’s own trade­offs. The fact is, when there’s a capa­ble deci­sion mak­er, deci­sions get made quick­er. And when there’s col­lab­o­ra­tion, they get made slow­er. It’s up to us to decide what mix we want. But we’re here to talk about some­thing that gets for­got­ten a lot: the fact that lead­ers need to own the deci­sions.

Confusion Kills Decisions

If you can’t trust your own deci­sions, you can’t move for­ward. And involv­ing oth­er peo­ple doesn’t always help you. They ques­tion, they stall, and they put the bur­den of proof on you, if you let them.

  • When col­lab­o­ra­tion goes wrong, it mud­dies the waters, mak­ing it impos­si­ble to move for­ward.
  • We, in good faith, bring oth­ers into the deci­sion-mak­ing process who don’t want it to suc­ceed.
  • Unknow­able polit­i­cal motives make it hard to real­ly under­stand why some­one is object­ing to your plan.

And these sit­u­a­tions repeat them­selves because we feel pres­sure to ignore our own instincts about the motives of oth­ers, and involve them in the name of kind­ness or inclu­sion.

For Example

I go to the boss with an idea. She says we need more research. Instead of show­ing her that the research is done and push­ing her to be spe­cif­ic about what’s miss­ing and focus­ing her on the goal, I go and get more research, with­out even under­stand­ing why.

In oth­er words, I defer to her judge­ment, allow­ing myself to get bul­lied. And it may be my own fault for not trust­ing in myself enough to pro­vide real val­ue by push­ing back.

What I should do is to respect­ful­ly, but direct­ly, tell her that she has all the infor­ma­tion she needs to make a deci­sion. And if she wants to hold off, that’s up to her. But be clear that that’s the deci­sion she’s mak­ing.

Here’s what we do about it.

And while this needs to stop, get­ting to a solu­tion is not easy. To get there, we need an appre­ci­a­tion for our own judg­ment. And we need to use that judge­ment to cut through the extra work and clut­ter that oth­ers want to put in the way.

There’s a time to be help­ful, and a time to be pro­duc­tive. Pro­duc­tive lead­ers respect their own time and skill enough that they rarely get walked on. They’re focused on their goals. This frees them up to do good.

Here’s what it looks like.

A 3-Step Process for Tak­ing Back Lead­er­ship.

1) Challenge Others to Move Beyond Just Offering Opinion and Get Involved

Get their skin in the game. If they’re not will­ing to do the work, have them ship out or help every­one real­ize they’re not doing their part. This is not so you can make them look bad, but so that you can expose it when they’re not pulling their weight. Con­struc­tive hon­esty, not blame, is the name of the game.

  • Refuse to let it sit: Real­ize that the alter­na­tive is for you to do noth­ing. You can’t sit there and try to avoid even the appear­ance of evil. You need to be a force for hon­esty.
  • Refuse to doubt unless there’s a log­i­cal rea­son to doubt. And if you’re wrong, you can always say you’re sor­ry and explain what you thought and why. But it’s okay to put pres­sure on peo­ple. Just do it respect­ful­ly.

2) Be Insensitive to Character Attacks, So You Can Move Forward

If you’re deci­sive, peo­ple will call you “insen­si­tive.” If your eye is on the goal, they’ll call you “arro­gant.” There’s just no way to please every­one.

  • If peo­ple want to attribute motives to your actions, put the bur­den of proof on them. For instance, if some­one calls you a racist for vot­ing for Trump, ask them for bet­ter evi­dence. If they accuse you of being a Com­mu­nist for vot­ing for Oba­ma, ask for the same thing.
  • This can be hard, since polit­i­cal play­ers will try to deflect on you that you’re the jerk and your motives are to “blame.”
  • Also real­ize that you may actu­al­ly be just try­ing to blame. Your motives might be bad. That’s some­thing you need to deal with, but you can’t let it stop you in what you’re doing, if what you’re doing is good.

Only lis­ten to peo­ple who are out for your growth. Don’t take char­ac­ter advice from peo­ple who are at war with you, even if they’re smil­ing.

3) Be Proactive in Making Decisions and Suggestions

Your proac­tiv­i­ty, even when the deci­sion isn’t yours, will pre­pare you to make bet­ter deci­sions.

  • Keep deci­sions clear.
  • Keep deci­sions sim­ple.


Don’t stop mak­ing deci­sions. Make the plan and make the judg­ment. And don’t be right all of the time.

If you want to accom­plish much as a leader, you’ll need these habits. It could be awk­ward at first, but if you trust your own judg­ment, you’ll be able to do more with less time. And you’ll have peo­ple who can fol­low you because of your sim­ple, clear deci­sions and your abil­i­ty to take the heat when your deci­sions don’t work out.