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Monday, June 21, 2010

Off with his head!

According to Herodotus – the first great historian of western culture – when Artabanus, uncle to the Persian emperor Xerxes, poked holes in Xerxes’s plan to invade Greece, an angry Xerxes refrained from putting Artabanus to death only because he was family. After Artabanus, who would have dared raised an issue with Xerxes?

In business, as in history, some leaders aren’t always open to disagreement and many people seek to avoid conflict. Staying off the radar, not ruffling any feathers, nodding “yes” is always the safer and more comfortable alternative. But it isn’t necessarily the most successful. Xerxes’s invasion, of course, proved a complete disaster.

Expressing and accepting a challenging point of view isn’t always easy. As Herodotus shows, leaders who react badly to challenges have a long history. But when a new idea creates a firestorm, maybe it needs to be looked at a little more deeply to better understand why it feels threatening.

Are you – as a leader – open to disagreement? Or are you surrounded by people who don’t challenge anything you say?

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