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Leadership Beyond Titles. Part 3: Building Consensus, Destroying Roadblocks

One of the most common tasks of a leader is to establish consensus and clarity. Often, the leader is responsible for maintaining consensus within their team or between teams throughout the execution of a project, day after day. Other times, it involves making corrections to the trajectory or gently pushing in the right direction to accelerate the achievement of objectives.

There’s a belief that to establish consensus and guidance, one must officially have a leadership title or authority. In my opinion, this is almost as outdated as thinking that a leader is someone who gives ‘orders’. In fact, developing the ability to achieve unofficial consensus is one of the first skills to develop when aiming to lead; it’s a precondition to official leadership.

What does this mean? It involves having sufficient active listening skills and curiosity to understand the end-to-end of a project or process and to identify gaps, voids, or misalignments. Once these missing pieces are identified, the next step is to expose them and orchestrate the team or process participants through suggestions or proposals that lead to the achievement of the goal.

Probably the first time, your team might think, “That’s great, we hadn’t thought of that, good point!” After repeatedly hitting the mark, your team will naturally ask for your opinion before proceeding, and that’s where one can begin to consider themselves a leader, because what is being a leader if not being seen as such by others and having them come to you?

In my experience, I’ve also found that this aspect of leadership can be exploited in longer chains of leadership, that is, when one is already an organization leader and participates in decision-making meetings within their own leaders’ circle. The gaps will be there too, and the voids and alignments will appear. After a while, you will naturally earn respect or have others turn to your opinion.

Orchestrating Solutions  

Another crucial characteristic of a leader is the ability to unblock the team, or even better, to detect possible roadblocks and anticipate them.

Naturally, you’ll find yourself in multiple situations where 15 minutes of your attention or effort can save hours or days of work for a collaborator.

For instance, a developer working on a mobile application encounters limitations in the existing backend in terms of searches. They begin investigating a tool for performing searches, like Elasticsearch or Algolia.

As a leader, you might know who in the company has experience with search engines to choose the one that best fits the problem.

Moreover, you might realize that having the mobile dev investigate the search engine during the application’s development could jeopardize the project’s deadline.

Lastly, you’re also aware of the assignments and timings of each resource in the organization. Is there another dev who could lend a hand?

You end up creating a meeting between the dev who has previously used Algolia, the dev who has more free time, explain the situation to them, and propose a proof of concept that runs parallel to the project’s execution. After a few days, the mobile project continued advancing, and we have a validated engine ready for use.

Sometimes, it’s not necessary for you to dive deep into the problem but to maximize the information and exposure you have to orchestrate the collaboration of the right people. This will take you just a few minutes or at most an hour, whereas it might take the team days because they don’t have your knowledge of the people and the organization.

Getting your hands dirty

However, leading isn’t always about orchestrating; no leader becomes one without getting their hands dirty a bit. Often, getting your hands dirty is what earns the team’s respect, especially when they don’t know you well yet.

Note, orchestrating and making sensible suggestions is not easy, but a leader needs to be there to say, “Ok, I’ll take care of this,” when things get tough or a solution can’t be found. This is equally or more important. It’s part of staying up-to-date, continuing to have hands-on participation in the implementation, and what also gives the team security, knowing that if everything gets complicated, the leader will go to the trenches to solve the problem.

Conclusion

Effective leadership goes beyond titles, deeply involving the art of building consensus and solving problems. It’s about actively listening, understanding, and guiding the team through challenges and towards shared goals. A true leader not only orchestrates solutions but also isn’t afraid to tackle problems head-on. This blend of strategic oversight and hands-on problem-solving strengthens teams and drives success. As leaders, our aim is to inspire confidence and foster an environment where every member feels empowered to contribute and overcome obstacles together.