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Seeking Alignment Over Agreement: A Key Leadership Strategy for Success

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Christopher McKinney, Sr.
December 22, 2023

In the complex terrain of leadership, the pursuit of common ground is often more impactful than achieving unanimity. The capacity to cultivate alignment among team members and stakeholders stands as a cornerstone of effective leadership. Unlike the rigid pursuit of agreement, which may compromise individual viewpoints, prioritizing alignment enables diverse voices to contribute cohesively to a shared vision. In this article, we will explore the rationale behind favoring alignment over agreement, highlighting the manifold advantages of this approach and offering practical insights for its seamless implementation.

Understanding the dichotomy between alignment and agreement is pivotal. While agreement implies unanimous endorsement of a singular course of action or standpoint, alignment is about identifying common objectives, values or principles that guide collective endeavors. In sinuous, complex and sometimes delicate environments, leaders cognizant of the intricacies of alignment recognize that achieving unanimous agreement can be daunting. Instead, they diligently seek out shared objectives and values that can serve as a unifying force, knitting together team members and stakeholders in a spirit of collaboration and cohesion.

Alignment vs. Agreement

Agreement entails a unanimous consensus, where all parties wholeheartedly endorse a specific course of action or perspective. Conversely, alignment involves identifying common objectives, values or principles that steer collective endeavors. This is achieved without necessitating complete unanimity on all details.

In the context of leadership, those who prioritize alignment acknowledge the inherent challenge of achieving absolute agreement, especially when confronted with intricate and diverse challenges. The issues are nuanced and complex, akin to intricate handwoven tapestries. There are no easy answers, but in seeking unanimity, the issues can be portrayed as off-the-shelf furnishings from Home Goods when we give oversimplified solutions in succinct soundbites.

Marcus Aurelius once said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Unfortunately, when we have an incessant pursuit of unanimity, “the way” is often the status quo… no progress, change or resolution to the pressing issue. Rather than fixating on an often unattainable goal of unanimous agreement, astute leaders concentrate on unearthing shared goals and values that unite their team and stakeholders.

Building Trust and Inclusivity

One of the primary benefits of seeking alignment is the positive impact on trust and inclusivity within an organization. When leaders are willing to engage in open dialogue and consider diverse perspectives, team members feel valued, respected and heard. Research published in “How Inclusive Leadership Enhances Followers Taking Charge” reveals that inclusive leadership, which promotes alignment, leads to higher job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Leaders intentionally cultivate a more profound sense of belonging by creating an inclusive environment, enhancing morale and overall performance.

 Empowering Employee Ownership

Alignment empowers employees by enabling them to take ownership of their roles and actively contribute to the organization’s overall success. Leaders who emphasize alignment establish an environment where team members experience a genuine sense of ownership and responsibility for their tasks. This autonomy nurtures enhanced creativity and innovation as staff members are empowered to bring their distinct viewpoints and ideas to the forefront.

However, a crucial step often overlooked is that senior leaders must communicate unequivocally that every voice holds significance. Without this affirmation, the message of empowerment comes across as superficial. It can lead to only a few dominant voices talking.

Strengthening Stakeholder Relations

Seeking alignment extends beyond the team and encompasses relations with external stakeholders, such as customers, investors and community members. Leaders who prioritize alignment in communication and decision-making are better equipped to understand and address the needs of their stakeholders. This stakeholder-centric approach builds trust and credibility, enhancing the organization’s reputation and resilience. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, 63 percent of consumers worldwide choose to buy or boycott brands based on their alignment with their values. Leaders who seek alignment with stakeholders drive loyalty and build enduring partnerships that create mutual value.

Landing the Plane

So, the importance of seeking alignment over agreement must be considered for leaders seeking sustained success in today’s dynamic and divided world. By prioritizing alignment, we as leaders empower employees and stakeholders to embrace a shared vision, driving organizational growth and cultivating enduring success.

Alignment takes work to achieve. You will likely encounter challenges in seeking it, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. I often say, “It’s leadership, not liker-ship.” If you desire to be liked, alignment will often allude you. Alignment is messy and fraught with difficult, uncomfortable conversations. Still, as you garner more “wins” in facilitating alignment, you gain momentum and become more adept at establishing alignment. Alignment harnesses the collective energy and effort of the group towards a common goal, thereby paving the path to a future of sustainable growth and achievement.

Author: Christopher McKinney, Sr. is CEO of 10X Leadership Consulting, a premier consulting company that takes clients to the next level by delivering exponential value, 10X value. 10XLC specializes in strategy, high performance cultures, change management & talent optimization. 10XLC has sustained a 93.4 Net Promoter Score average. Chris also served as CEO of a Regional Planning District supporting 4 counties & 12 cities/towns in South Carolina. During his tenure they elevated grant revenues 168% above the previous 10 years in 4 years and his leadership produced a 95% employee engagement during the pandemic. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @10XLC; LinkedIn: christopher-h-mckinney-sr; website: www.10XLC.consulting

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