50 Posts 50 Rules: Tom Peters on Leadership #24

24. Leaders also know when to challenge design specs. 

Okay so this one is obvious if we continue on from the last post. There is always a leader a level or two up that sets the design spec for you. As a leader if something in the spec does not make sense it is your responsibility to challenge it. It does not matter if this is a point of culture, process or even a product feature. A leader will challenge that which makes no sense to him. 

The real key here lies in how the challenge takes place. An open challenge saying this is insane stupid etc. is suicide and not the choice of a leader. No leaders practice something more effective. Peter Senge in his book The Fifth Discipline (a great read by the way) discusses a technique called inquiry and advocacy. This is a process of balancing the use of probing questions for understanding with the argument of a contrasting point of view. Knowing which to use when and in what quantity is a critical tool of a leader when they challenge others.

Challenge: Borrow or buy The Fifth Discipline and read about advocacy and inquiry. Then chose a relatively inconsequential difference you have with a friend and use the technique to see if through the tool you can convince them of the merits of your point of view while understanding theirs at a deeper level.

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