When Right is Wrong

Written by Leonard Buhler

I’m a driven individual. I’m passionate and single-minded about what I do. When I look at the organization I’m responsible to lead, I want us to be the best we can possibly be. I want us to do the right things, the right way. I like to be right.

Sometimes being right is wrong. This is a lesson I’ve learned as a leader. I can come up with an amazing idea, a great system, a brilliant solution to a problem. I can figure out the most efficient, productive way to handle a project. I can see all the flaws in how other people are coming at an issue. I can be absolutely, one hundred percent right. And still completely wrong.

Say you’ve expressed your opinion. You’re convinced it’s the right call. But the people around you aren’t so sure. They see things differently. They’d rather do it their way. You can stick to your guns, and insist that everyone adopt your proposal. You can throw logic and arguments at them until they recognize they’re mistaken.  This is one time when you might be right.  But you’ve alienated everyone around you.  You’re on your own.  You’re right, but you’re also wrong.

What I’ve learned as a leader is that being right doesn’t matter unless your relationships are right too. Does this mean you abandon your great idea? No. It means that you make relationships your highest value as you move ahead. You invite your team into the process. You let your idea be shaped by the people leading with you. Does this involve compromise? Does it require humility? Definitely. But what I’ve found is that more often than not, the people around me shape my idea into something even better. I’ve stood amazed as together, we went much further than I could have alone. It’s possible to do the right things, the right way, with relationships that are right too.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

What about you? How do you handle the tension between the need to be right and the need for healthy relationships?

6 Responses to “When Right is Wrong”

  • Sharon says:

    good article i am learning that i don’t have to right all the time its hard but i am learning because i would argue mostly with my husband to say see i am right now i would still argue because i want to be right but it doesn’t all the time work i am learning though so thank you for this post

  • comfort says:

    This is really a great post. Its just like looking yourself in the mirror. I am a leader in a youth group and each time i am not co-ordinating the service, i always see faults in others effort. I always want my ideas to be accepted. This post has really open my eyes to my wrong. Thanks.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    I would agree with you Tim that there are strengths and weaknesses to both worldviews. It is helpful to understand your own worldview so that you are better able to flex when it is necessary. I love the willingness to not accept things just because “that’s how it has always been”. The post-modern has allowed us to question and understand why. But at the same time I recognize the value of tradition and proven path ways. There are some things that are right and often the questioning is a reflection of the arrogance of youth rather than true curiosity. I also think post-moderns can be manipulated by the fringe just because it is non-traditional.

    In a leadership context, the leader is well-advised to know himself and his team so that he can communicate in a way that works best for them. Trying to force everyone else to have my worldview is not very productive.

  • Tim Chan says:

    I think both need to make changes. Whoever makes the change gets more of the advantage. But I also think whoever is in leadership has a greater responsibility to initiate change. What do you think Jamie? Do you have a post-modern of modern worldview and what are your thoughts?

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    That is good insight into yourself and your generation Tim. Who do you think needs to make the change: the post-modern or the modern?

  • Tim Chan says:

    Great post Leonard!
    I just heard a great talk about the leadership/business styles between those over 45 (with a modern worldview) and those under 35 (with a post-modern worldview). For those under 35, including myself, we want to be able to input into the discussion. After we’ve been allowed to contribute to the conversation and feel like we’ve been heard and our ideas seriously considered, then we’re open to hearing the “right” answer. But if you come to us with the right answer without involving us in the discussion, then we’re more likely to reject your “right” answer.

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