Leadership For Tense Meetings

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” — Jim Rohn

Have you ever participated in a meeting where decisions must be made to move an organization (department, business, church, association) forward? And there are at least two strong points of view regarding the direction of the decision. Sometimes these decisions are so important that the outcome will determine the direction of the organization for years to come. And the goal is to not let the organization splinter.

Have you ever had to lead such a meeting?

This quote from author/consultant Jim Rohn hit a couple of items that directly affect the successful outcome of such a meeting.

Let’s tackle thoughtful. The leader beforehand must understand the necessary outcome of the decision. She must also understand the competing points of view. The leader must be able to fairly summarize for the group the issue and each side. This starts the conversation on a level platform focusing on results, not personalities.

Then there is strong. Taking control of the meeting means taking control of speakers in the sense of encouraging people to speak, but to speak civilly and orderly. The strong leader intervenes to keep the conversations focused. She assures that while only one person at a time speaks all sides are heard and all questions asked.

The leader is not rude. The meeting will take its tone from the leader. A weak leader relinquishes control of the meeting to the loudest voices. Meanwhile, a rude leader cuts off people in mid-sentence, makes cutting comments, ignores some perspectives. On the other hand, he is courteous. Has a firm but gentle voice. Treats every member with respect. So this category also includes kind and not weak.

There are times when humor is not only appropriate, but also it lightens the tension and, like a deep breath, allows everyone space to calm and refocus.

I’ve seen these discussions go downhill in a hurry where just about everyone goes away angry. I’ve seen these meetings go well.

This is a lot like the work of a professional soccer referee who successfully orchestrates the game, but in the end all the focus is on the players. And the players determine the outcome. The focus of a successful leader is on everyone else, not on themselves.

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