Let’s agree to the following reality: Being “right” does not make you effective. In other words, having the facts in your favor does not mean others will follow you to the conclusion those facts suggest. Being right versus being effective is one of the hardest leadership lessons to learn in life, and too many seasoned leaders still don’t grasp it.
When you’re truly an expert, as most leaders are, you are right much of the time. But that only matters if others will act on your knowledge and direction. If those you lead won’t act on your truth, being right is like knowing the answer on a test that never gets given. Being right is always overrated when it comes at the expense of getting things done.
When leaders are overly concerned about being right in any given situation, they are virtually guaranteed to be ineffective. Aver that your position is correct without inviting others to come to the same conclusion and you will encounter strong resistance. Whether leaders like it or not, those we lead always have the subtle power of just sitting on their hands. Insist on being right and your plan may simply fail to execute.
The best leaders wait to offer their view. They ask for opinions and they will attribute correct answers to others. They will lead people to the conclusions they believe in by asking questions rather than directing action.
When others still resist, great leaders ask everyone to challenge their own assumptions, reconsider possibilities, as opposed to mandating a direction others don’t believe in — yet. In the order of sense-making, the best leaders want to be effective and then right, not the other way around. Great leaders learn over time to value effectiveness much more than the smug comfort of being right. How right do you need to be?