Creative leaders are independent thinkers: curious, non-conforming, and rebellious. They practice brutal, non-hierarchical honesty. They act in the face of risk because their fear of not succeeding exceeds their fear of failing. But creative leaders don’t stop at introducing originality into the world. They create cultures that unleash originality in others, and that can only be done within a culture that welcomes dissent.
The Obligation to dissent
Your organization might prefer consensus and harmony. In creative settings where the stakes are high, it is imperative to stimulate debate and criticism to improve the quality of ideas. Dissenting for the sake of dissenting is not useful, but when it is authentic, it stimulates thought. The secret to success is sincerity. Obligation to dissent is critical. Everyone with a critical opinion should always speak up about it. Dissenting opinions are useful even when they are wrong, as they clarify and embolden everyone’s thinking.
How can you build a strong culture of dissent that truly welcomes difference of opinion, critique and challenge? The Cherokee tribe of Native Americans advise to not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. The American comic writer Jack Handey offered an addendum: “Before you criticize people, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”
It starts with whom you surround yourself with and listen to. Be sure to constantly increase the diversity in your organization when hiring talent. When actively gathering advice from people who aren’t your friends, bring different insights to the table and challenge you to fix mistakes and pursue innovations.