“I am not a consensus politician. I’m a conviction politician.”
For Margaret Thatcher, this was no rhetoric. It was the truth. A truth she lived with the same felicity that she believed in it.
Whether or not you liked her, whether or not you agreed with her, you cannot take away from the fact that she consistently demonstrated the immense power in the value of conviction.
This value lies in its unshakable belief without need for proof or evidence. Some may myopically term it pig headedness. But when the passion of conviction amalgamates with purpose, it unleashes a power that can change the self to change the world.
In the corporate world, this is the essence of leadership.
The leader must possess a vision, but above it, an unshakable faith in his vision. She should have expertise, focus, charisma, passion…but above them all must sit conviction as the driver. For, as somebody so aptly put it, it is conviction that drives decision, promotes action, accepts risk, overcomes doubt, and draws others into the endeavor. Simply put, it is a firm persuasion of oneself that something is right, and so must be believed…and must be done.
Where does this then place the much-celebrated leadership by consensus? Do conviction and consensus confusedly conflict with each other?
Contrary to what the extreme conviction leader may think, consensus is not about abandoning beliefs, principles or values and policies. (Mrs Thatcher’s famous pronouncement about it being “something in which no one believes and to which no one objects” may be a little harsh).
Good leaders do not confuse the two. They take the road of conviction in their strategy but build consensus around it. They do not diminish their power of conviction to build consensus. They listen and take strong action down the path they believe to create the best performance. They unerringly keep the vision of their goal as the primary target.
Such ‘visioneering’, is a unique trait of a good leader. At all times he holds a clear picture of what could be, and fuels it ahead by the conviction that it should be. She compels herself to move forward and make bold and sometimes, disruptive decisions, no matter the cost. They clear the cobwebs around populism to instill competitive identity in their teams, a trait that makes their members proudly engaged in discovering a focussed belief and voluntary commitment to succeed in today’s hyper competitive scenarios.
True, we should not brush aside some real risks associated with strong convictions. Such as hubris that leads to arrogance and perhaps manipulative fostering of dissension for selfish ends. Here is where the true leader balances his conviction with responsibility. Responsibility, to understand with integrity the causal effect of a desired end. And conviction, to choose the right end. CK Prahalad’s message on this will remain eternally un-erasable – “Responsibility without conviction is amorally pragmatic and un-engaging; conviction without responsibility is impotent”.
And when the ‘conviction’ leader adds optimism in instilling competitive identity, he is on his way to becoming a charismatic leader. She is then seen as one who accepts both obligation and accountability to engage and enable her people to pursue the vision.
May such Pied Pipers start their journeys!