Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one that we have. Emilie Chartier
One of the biggest challenges for leaders at all levels is the ability to have an idea, commit to the idea and move forward and at the same time be open to the notion that there may be better ideas out there. It seems like we’re wishy-washy or non-committed to accept that a new direction may be needed. Even of more concern is the belief that, as a leader, you need to be the one that has the idea in the first place.
This is the problem I have with “true believers” of all stripes. Whether it is partisanship in politics or initiatives in business and education, the all-in commitment to a single idea limits the leaders to being creative and, in many cases, eliminates the possibility that a workable solution will be found. I had an opportunity to interview best-selling author Ken Blanchard one time and he commented that leaders often feel that they have been granted the ability to be the smartest person around. That’s unfortunate since the smartest person around might be the person that has just a tiny responsibility in the overall picture.
I firmly believe that a leader should be firmly committed to ideals but open to other ideas. The difference is that an ideal is standard of perfection, a principle at which you aim. An idea is simply one conception of how to get there. Effective leaders stand by their principles but are flexible about their ideas. They recognize that among all of those who follow them, there are likely to be ideas that are much more effective, efficient or engaging than their own.