My grandfather used to say: “Son, keep your powder dry.” The old aphorism is basically a reminder to keep your power or influence in reserve until you really need it. In my case, he could simply have been trying to quiet an overly talkative kid. But anything my grandfather said that had to do with guns carried great authority with me. He owned a shotgun that had been converted from a flintlock by his grandfather, and we grandchildren were schooled in its use.
I was recently reminded of my grandfather’s advice as I was about to participate in a planned meeting. One of the meeting leaders pulled me aside to tell me that I was not to ask questions, and informed me that if I did ask questions, I would be punished to the fullest extent possible. I also was not to challenge the preordained conclusion.
I was simultaneously aghast and impressed. Never had I heard such a trifecta of terrible leadership uttered in a single breath. It was a reminder to revisit the premises of all the books I had read and the conferences I had attended on leadership.
There are basic prerequisites of building consensus and adopting new ideas.
First, you must introduce the wonderful idea and explain it to everyone. It is even better when you are able to back up someone else’s great idea.