Exceptional leaders embrace the expression, “Strong opinions held weakly.” It represents both a strength in advocacy and the wisdom to remain open-minded as new information and viewpoints become available.
When operating from this vantage, leaders let their guard down and involve others in their search for truth. Even when they are highly convicted, the best leaders view truth with a small “t” and not a capital “T,” as it is never the final answer.
We follow leaders who have confidence in their views and ideas. Having strong opinions is both natural and necessary for leaders who want others to follow them. Not having strong opinions when they are warranted suggests a leader who lacks passion and conviction. At the same time, holding these opinions too firmly undercuts the ability for others to be heard and offer new information.
“Strong opinions held weakly” is the motto of great leaders who understand the tension between strong belief and openness to different views. Living it requires leaders to remain steadfast in their commitment to both sides of the equation.
The best leaders live within this tension and are more effective for it. In the words of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”