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Insight Ten: Strong Opinions Lightly Held

strong opinions lightly held

The last of our insight series—insight number 10—comes from a client that we worked with almost ten years ago.

This client was an accomplished executive on the leadership team at her company. Clearly she hadn’t needed an executive coach in order to succeed. She approached us, however, because she understood there is always room for growth, and she simply wanted to be the best she could be.

The board of directors at this leader’s company was recommending a reduction in headcount as a cost cutting measure. The leadership team was preparing to follow through on these layoffs, without considering other options. Our client had another idea.

The problem she knew she was facing as she tried to advocate for her employees became clear as we explored the culture of the leadership team. They had a last-man-standing kind of environment where each person would attempt to dig-in and defend their own position. She agreed that this typical approach to conflict resolution was exhausting—not to mention often futile—so we began to brainstorm alternatives she could try.

“What if, instead of brute force, I take a different tact?” she mused. “What if I come in strong with my idea, but leave lots of room around it for others? That way, maybe I’ll see less defensiveness from others… You know, strong opinions lightly held.”

Her idea was brilliant.

We talked through her approach, and she was able to present her ideas to the team in an open, mutual way that welcomed others to come together and collaborate. And it worked. The team came up with a series of alternatives rather than simply eliminating jobs. She had succeeded on all fronts.

Something to try:

As you form your opinions, especially on controversial matters, acknowledge any possible objections to your view, and be ready to address them respectfully.

Consider holding your ideas lightly and in an unattached way, recognizing that everyone at the table has something important and helpful to contribute. This doesn’t mean you back off of your beliefs, but that you present your opinions in a welcoming and inclusive way, acknowledging that you may not have all the answers.

Remember: collaboration leads to better execution, a factor that will always lead to the best outcome for the organization.

Have strong opinions, lightly held.


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Our sole purpose at Leadership Landing is to help leaders awaken great leadership within themselves and their organizations. Often that process starts with an idea.  Our blog explores questions and ideas that leaders face through the lens of the Five Attributes of Great Leadership. Come explore with us »

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