“Disagree and commit” is a principle I originally came across while learning about the leadership philosophy at Intel.
The principle essentially mandates that leaders driving decisions show up prepared to speak their mind freely, even if it means heated discussion. Your obligation is to agree or disagree and to speak openly about your position. Conflict, tension and debate are healthy as long as people focus on attacking the ideas and issues, and not one another.
At the end of the meeting, however, everyone commits to the decisions made, regardless of whether they agree or disagree.
It’s no secret that teams, organizations, institutions, and nations exist with deep division and dissenting opinion on how to move forward. In order to get things done leadership must work tirelessly to fuel collaboration, partnership and put personal and professional differences aside. Leaders must align around the pursuit of meaningful progress toward shared outcomes.
Personally, this was very hard for me to accept early in my professional career. As a new leader, I had bold ideas and massive internal initiative to create change. I wanted to build a better business for our employees and customers. I was passionate, emotional and often found myself at odds with other executives on our team as we were making decisions to shape our strategy.
However, I learned over time that it was my responsibility to accept things I could not change and support the decisions and leadership agenda we put forward. Dissension, secret agendas, politicking and complaining behind closed doors would only serve to undermine our ability to come together as a team and get things done.
As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos perfectly puts it, “complaining is not a strategy.” The 13th leadership principle of The Amazon Way is:
Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit.
“Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.”
Leadership also means making a commitment. The best place to start is on the inside — with “yourself first.” When we are courageous and committed to showing up for others as our most genuine, vulnerable and compassionate selves, and in spite of our many differences, a beautiful thing happens. We start connecting and experiencing the world in a different way.
Change is a Process, Not an Event
Growth usually requires change. Real change often requires consistent effort. It’s a process. That’s why meaningful change can be so hard. Setbacks are part of the journey. We won’t always get it right. It is exactly in moments of challenge, adversity and uncertainty when leaders need to step up. Fear and division hold us back.
Leadership isn’t a job — it’s a responsibility. And those who take that responsibility seriously have the opportunity to have a major impact on the lives of others. We all share opportunity to lead, contribute and make a meaningful impact.
VIDEO: Lead a Legacy
My life is my responsibility. That lesson has been reinforced to me in so many powerful ways this year. So I am taking a little extra time this week to consider those two questions I shared in the video:
- Who can I impact today?
- How do I want to be remembered?
I understand this is a very emotional, uncertain time. Sitting in a hotel room yesterday, I was personally moved by the leadership I witnessed in some powerful speechmaking in spite of the disagreement and clear disappointment in the outcome of the election.
It reminded me that it’s time to get things done.