As we transition from physicians-in-training to physicians, we will serve in a variety of leadership capacities and teams which we will lead. Many times, teams will utilize the method of consensus building to make decisions. While consensus building is important for leaders, it is not necessary to pursue consensus on every decision. So, the question that I ask and answer is the following: how will the leader of the team determine when—and when not to—pursue consensus?
When people don’t know what to do or what to believe, it’s convenient and comforting to ask others to tell them. However, I truly believe that the prerequisite of sound leadership is first knowing where you want to go. For strong leadership roles, I don’t believe that consensus building is necessarily the way to go because you can’t always please everyone. Being truly interested in the opinions of others is very important, admirable, and vital; however, it is not the starting point. We must realize when it comes to the vision and mission of your entity, that cannot be delegated or abdicated.
Your thoughts as the leader should create the foundation and guide principles for your entity; only then can everyone operate with a mindset from a unifying foundation. That is when consensus building is important. Consensus building is important when the outcome of the decision affects the entire team and generally won’t affect the bottom line. I do think that consensus building can be useful and may be utilized in scenarios where:
1 – There is time to build a consensus on a decision. If there is an emergent situation where a decision has to be made, now is not the time for consensus building.
2 – What is the gravity of the situation? Will this be a decision that affects the entire hospital or is it department based?
3 – Do you feel strong enough to carry out this decision on your own? Do you need more perspectives? Do you have all of the knowledge to make this decision, or is this a time you need help and resort to consensus?
What are your thoughts on consensus building?