Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


Synopsis:  Sometimes saying ‘no’ can be the crux of effective leadership.  Find out how you can empower your business decisions by saying ‘no’ and choosing to make a choice instead of merely reacting.

Could it be? Is saying ‘no’ a skill that could be pivotal to leadership?

At an initial glance, it may seem counterintuitive, but we have learned some difficult business lessons in a post-pandemic world: Business leaders are often working under pressure and acquiescing under such circumstances to certain business may seem easier. Being agreeable can initially avoid conflicts, make one come across as more amenable.

However, the wrong decisions can often spark a domino effect. It can lead to unnecessary business pressure, expenses, and risks that can be a recipe for disaster. Under such circumstances, especially during a crisis, business leaders must choose carefully.

Insights from Forte reveal why it may be far more pragmatic for leaders to learn to say – No!

Choice not compulsion

It’s not merely about putting a stop to being a ‘people pleaser’ when it comes to considering every business request. While change often requires a shift from one’s comfort zone, being too resistant is indicative of being too comfortable. While the risk-reward equation must be duly assessed, business leaders ought to also scrutinize where is it that they are too comfortable.  Is not shifting gears towards a change an excuse? Is there a compelling reason behind the change that may help break the proverbial glass ceiling? Can it help the business achieve a much-needed breakthrough?

Leaders must have a greater cognizance about the boundaries they set for themselves, their business while also weighing in expectations.

Compass for change

The choices made by business leaders can come from a place of fear or freedom, both are powerful motivators. It is imperative to have a deeper introspection of one’s values and goals.  The key to activating leadership values are:

  • Instead of being just aspirational, make them actionable (practical). Make definitions and actions, such as a list of commitments to what you believe in.
  • Acknowledge short-term discomfort for long-term gain – remember that what you are doing now is in the service of something bigger in the long-term.
  • Ensure that one’s values and goals are holistic (personal and professional) – ask yourself how to activate the core values across all facets of your life to make better decisions.
  • Set clear daily intentions – track progress every day and be proud.

It is always better to filter your decisions through a list like this to ensure that the right checkpoints and criteria are met.

Choose to introspect profoundly

Most individuals have a public front: The actions and behaviours that are visible to the outside world. In a manner, the world perceives business leaders in a certain way.  However, to go a layer deeper, business leaders, like any human being, have wants, anxieties, and beliefs that are kept hidden. Genuinely impactful leadership comes from a place of authenticity. To achieve their true potential as leaders and learn along the way, there must be a willingness to introspect with deep-reaching questions. Only then can leaders achieve trust and be in sync with their organization and its employees.

Choose communication over judgment

Compassion has become a necessary pre-requisite for leaders in the new normal. An empathetic approach towards one’s employees is also a necessary consequence.  However, exercising empathy correctly not only facilitates trust but also circumvents unreasonable expectations.  Ergo, resentment should not replace healthy communication. It would make the taskforce feel less isolated and more in sync with the organizational goals.

Another key aspect of communication is that ‘no’ is deemed to be finality. Instead, saying when can help you segue in the decisions in a more coherent fashion, when it seems more pragmatic and organic. It’s all about striking a balance and finding a way to holistic organic growth that does not overwhelm your organizational functioning.

Lionel Alva

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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