It is a common organizational problem to mistake consensus for alignment, and then to mistake that alignment for great leadership. While it is certainly advantageous, even necessary for any team of leaders to be moving towards the same goal strategically, it is at least as necessary and advantageous for individual leaders within that team to, well, lead.
Throughout my career I have been confronted with authoritarian, lockstep type management styles that remind me of little children being tied together as they cross the street a go to school. Not surprisingly, it is a style I have never thrived under nor have I used in practice. Today’s leaders need what is called the freedom to lead, the space within their own areas of influence and responsibility to adjust to matters on the ground. Trust needs to be placed in them that they will advance towards the strategic goal, and guidance should be provided along the way to ensure that path is generally a straight line. Otherwise you run the risk of having a different set of standards for different areas of your business, and that isn’t a good thing. But it isn’t a huge risk as long as you are conscious of it.
If, as a leader, you find yourself needing everyone to march to your tune, ask yourself why. Too often, the need to have everyone move in lockstep is a sign of insecurity in your own ability to lead, or to execute. There is safety in numbers, and it can provide a sense of comfort that if the plan fails, you won’t be singled out for it. Unfortunately, that isn’t really leadership.
Embrace the leader within you and don’t be afraid to stand out. Challenge “the way it’s always been done”, and challenge others to find new, innovative ways to arrive at the destination – even those who you are leading. You will inspire them, empower them – and just might find new value in your vision.