July 11, 2008

Flip-Flopping vs. Obstinance: A Leader's Dilemma

We find ourselves disappointed in our leaders for flip-flopping. We don't want to think they will change their minds on a whim...or for political advantage. Obama is getting some heat for this now, especially on his recent vote on FISA and his position on campaign financing. McCain has also done his share of changing positions, most recently regarding immigration law.

So, when is changing one's position "Flip-flopping" and when is it "evolution of thinking"? Is flip-flopping worse than stubbornly holding on to a perspective that upon reflection has no merit? Is it OK for leaders to admit errors and change their minds?

During a heated political campaign it is near impossible for a candidate to make a shift in position without it being seen as politically motivated. What about business, however? Are the internal politics of the corporate world the same?

There are times when flip-flopping can be a virtue in business and, yes, even in politics. Today's world is complex; sound decisions require information from a variety of sources. Leaders must be open to new perspectives, which may result in a change in position.

Historically, we have valued leaders that were strong, decisive and unwavering, dare I say also at times obstinate? Yet there is increasing evidence that real leadership comes from being reflective, collaborative and having the ability to use the creative energies of others. This sometimes necessitates a "flip-flop" and can present a real challenge for today's leaders.

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