The Paradox of Leadership: Seeking Help

You’ve done everything right.

You went to the right schools, studied hard, got the best internships, joined the right firms, executed on the right projects, made smart business decisions. You’ve prepared yourself to take charge and lead your company to great heights. You’ve got your dream job. So, are you ready to take advice from an outside consultant?

It’s a dilemma facing many company leaders. You’ve relied on your intelligence, you’ve hired good people and you believe you have the right strategy to move forward. Is it worth bringing in a second pair of eyes that points out areas of your operation that need help?

Translation: Should you hire a consultant to help you refine your strategy?

I came across a wonderful passage by leadership expert Mark Vincent of Design Group International that paints a picture of the leadership paradox that many executives are faced with. In a 2013 blog post, Vincent states “a leader needs to communicate or followers cannot know what is expected. But, to communicate is to increase the possibilities of being misunderstood or of someone not hearing the message. “

As the owner of a consultancy, what I get from this passage is that there is always another perspective that can be helpful to reaching organizational goals. Particularly, when you are talking about “getting your message across”.

In her book Dare to Lead, author Brené Brown offers a very personal example of how the mantel of leadership can sometimes keep us from being brave and generous leaders. In an encounter with her team, Brown is told by her CFO that she is “not good at estimating time” which is hindering the team’s effectiveness. Brown’s reflexive response to this is to essentially deflect and find an excuse for why he was wrong.

This is a familiar position that leaders find themselves in, when confronted by hard truths. The question is how can leaders trust the advice of others, if they feel that “only they know what is best”? At OVP, we believe it is our job to help clients understand that while most times they DO know what is best, that there are still other perspectives that are necessary to consider, if an organization really wants to improve.

Despite the hard work and success companies (large or small) have achieved, executives must consider how alternative approaches to problem-solving may impact their organizations. And here’s a secret: Seeking advice from outside sources is often a precursor to innovation.

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Alejandro Bodipo-Memba

Chicago, Illinois