Show Deference or Make a Difference?

Deference is defined as "respectful submission or yielding to the judgment, opinion, or will of another".

Also consider the phrase to make a difference, meaning "to cause a change in one's situation, circumstances or course of action."

Is one better than the other? More right? More noble? Of course one is a better choice than the other. Which one you ask? This answer is both.

Being a dynamic and successful leader doesn't mean you are always right, nor does it mean you always get your way. The wise leader understands that there are times when he or she needs to walk their own ideas back in deference to the ideas or input of their team.

  • It may be because their team member's idea is obviously the best one on the table.
  • Maybe it's necessary to let a team member run with their idea to see if they will succeed.
  • More importantly, maybe the leader needs to see how will their team member will react if they fail.
  • The leader who understands which battles are worth fighting and defers in the ones that are not will more than likely succeed in the most important challenges.
  • Leaders increase buy in of their team members when the team sees a leader willing to allow the team to help shape the direction and the mission of the team.

What would you add as a good reason or result of showing deference?

There are other times when a leader simply needs to make a difference. Not every decision or every action deserves a democratic vote or the full support of the team. Real leaders understand that sometimes authentic leadership can be a lonely and difficult task. Leaders who always defer to the political or social winds of change do an injustice to their organization and their cause.

  • Making a difference requires looking at the consequences and course for everyone. Groups tend to focus on the immediate, here-and-now aspects of decisions, and tend to focus primarily on how the decision will affect their group.
  • The successful leader is passionate about making a difference as it relates to core values. Sometimes this is difficult, even costly for an organization. Leaders understand the payoff comes eventually, and are willing to pay the short term costs to hold true to the core values.
  • Leaders don't just lead, they produce other leaders. As a mentor/leader, it's critical that they model courage for those they are leading. Leaders push through the waves of discontent of the larger group with passion and fierce determination.
  • Timing isn't everything, but timing affects everything. Leaders who seek input or show deference may miss a window of opportunity for growth, change or success

What would you add as a good reason to make a difference by leading, even if it's against the feeling of the group?

The bottom line is simple...there is no bottom line. There is no standard answer. The mark of authentic leadership simply means knowing in each moment whether it's time to lead by deferenceor lead by making a difference.

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