Great leaders need disagreement!

Disagreement!Photo: Yuri_Arcurs/ Resource:

Photo: Yuri_Arcurs/ Resource:

It is quite natural: If you have a great idea, it feels good when others telling you:

“Waoh, That’s a fantastic idea.”

It is so good for your ego, isn’t it?

But be careful: If your employees tell you always how great you and your ideas are, something is going terribly wrong.

 Avoid the Yes-Man-Mentality

Managers often tend to surround themselves with people who agree with them and who think like them – or at least always saying “Yes” to all what the boss presents.

That is dangerous. You need people in your team who are not like you. You need people who challenge your ideas, who think differently and who may suggest even the opposite way of your presented direction.

Do you really need redundancy?

Gen George Marshall said once:

“If you and I agree all the time, one of us is redundant!”

Good disagreement is central to progress. If you don’t allow dissent, you produce a company culture of stagnation, fear and frustration. The result: Employees with good ideas leave your company or they mentally resign. They sit back and protect their jobs by agreeing with everything you suggest.

If that’s the case you have surrounded yourself only with “Yes–Men!” That’s not what you and your company need. Avoid it by all means.

You need controversial discussions!

Ideas need to be discussed – controversially. You need to encourage your people to challenge you and your ideas. Encourage disagreement and use it to empower collaboration and decision making.

Disagreement vs Disrespect

There is a difference between disagreement and disrespect! Don’t confuse the two.

As the manager or as the subordinate: Be honest and tell what you think, but do it politely. Disagreements should not become personal.

However, if the decision is made after discussions and balancing pros and cons, dissent must stop. Once the decision has been made, the employees need to understand that they have an obligation to support the decision – even if they disagree with the decision.



  • Hi Bernd,
    So, having a company culture with plenty of disagreement is a good thing? Sounds like my business organization is super healthy. 🙂 Seriously, I think there’s a lot to be said for spirited discussion and I tend to get nervous if all I can hear is silence after I speak. If you’re surrounded by “yes” men, it means you do all the work yourself. Thanks for the post and for sharing it with the BizSugar community, as always.

    • Hi Heather, Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, sometimes it may not feel right if you get lots of discussions with your employees, but mostly this is a good sign because your employees really care about what they are doing and about your company.

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  • Hi Bernd,
    If two people agree all the time – then one is not necessary…  As leaders we need grounding …  Without it – we get the “Emperor with no clothing” syndrome…  I think most people want to be told when they have no clothing on – but what happens is we get busy and people do not have time to deal with the messiness of disagreement…  That messiness is what creates stronger engagement and pushed business forward..  Embrace the messiness… Thanks…

    • Bernd Geropp

       Hi Mike,

      Thanks. You are absolutely right: As a leader you need grounding. The problem with it: The higher you are in the ranks the more important and the more difficult it gets…