Anyone can manipulate words and stretch the facts to suit their short term objective. However, it is difficult long-term to fake behavior and eventually your words will catch up with you.
When you lead others, everyone is a critic to some degree. It’s next to impossible to be fully aligned with another person 100% of the time. As a leader, knowing this, you can’t fall into the trap of listening to every dissenting voice. The path to mediocrity is littered with individuals who gave up their leadership power unnecessarily and allowed themselves to be unduly influenced by the opinions of others. This doesn’t mean you avoid soliciting feedback, quite the contrary, but you need to be able to filter this feedback and trust your own judgment. The world looks much different when you are actually accountable for your decisions. It’s easy to be an expert when you don’t have to deal with the consequences of your actions.
Leaders should be in a constant learning mode. Once you think you know it all give up the reigns of power because you will become detrimental to your organization. While some basic fundamental beliefs may remain true regardless of the circumstances, most of what takes place in business is in a constant state of flux. Your goal should be to stay ahead of the change curve not fall behind it. One way to do this is to keep asking questions and seeking answers. You can never be smart enough.
As you grow as a leader and start to have some success it’s important that you not get too full of yourself and remain somewhat humble. This is especially true as you begin to do more public speaking. While you certainly can, it’s not advisable to just say whatever is on your mind and believe you have all the answers. I’m often amazed how many people forget this fact. Otherwise smart people who have a lot to share with an audience kill their credibility with unwise or unnecessarily controversial statements. You have to know when to use your personal censor button.
Most of us prefer to occupy the realm of opinions rather than facts – whether we’d like to believe it or not. Instead of taking the time to actually prove something or find out the truth, it is much easier to form an opinion based on personal experience, values, attitude, hearsay, etc. This is especially true in our media where people with strong opinions (often with minimal or no grounding in the facts) dominate the airwaves. We’ve become a society dedicated to the easy answer and convenience in all things. It is certainly much easier and self-satisfying (we think) to find someone who represents our own point of view rather than pushes us to grow and challenge this perspective.
Everyone is too quick to jump on the popular opinion bandwagon these days. Instead of taking the time to understand the facts and make an educated decision about something, it is much easier for most people to just go along with the crowd and follow whatever the media or their particular brand of talking heads tells them to think. Just because something or someone resonates with you doesn’t mean this is an accurate reflection of reality.
There is nothing wrong with having strong opinions but always remember this doesn’t mean you are right. There is a difference between a fact based opinion and experiential opinion. In one case you are actually using hard facts and objective data to state you position. In the other case, you are relying more on subjective experience and personal beliefs to make your point. The dangerous thing about experiential opinions is that they are grounded solely on the personal filters of the advocate. They are also based on a singular and usually somewhat stunted view of reality. Being louder and more passionate about something will certainly garner attention, however, once again this doesn’t mean you are right and very often means you are rude, close-minded and/or a poor listener.
Disagreement is a fact of life. It is next to impossible to imagine that you will see “eye to eye” with someone else on every single issue. We all see the world with a slightly different perspective. What matters is how you navigate these disagreements. Do you take different opinions as a personal affront? Are you cordial to the other person who sees things differently? How important is it for you to be perceived as always having the right answer (and at what cost)? How open are you to different interpretations of the same set of facts? Are you willing to learn from your mistakes and admit when you are wrong?
There are very few beliefs that can actually backed up as truths. Most things in life are open to interpretation. And, interpretation is mostly a subjective exercise. No one person has all the answers or a full understanding of the facts.