Consensus or Leader-Led Decision Making in Startups

John D. Rockefeller ca. 1875
Image via Wikipedia

With a small, agile team there usually aren’t too many people to get on board with a decision. The ability to move quickly in a startup is critical, and team members need to be on board. In fact, fast decision making is one of the main reasons startups beat larger, more well-funded competitors. Two of the most common decision making approaches in startups are consensus and leader-led.

In a consensus process the leader works with the team members both individually and as a group to see how each person feels about a potential decision. The decision to move forward is only made with everyone in agreement, requiring more time and energy to reach an agreement. John D. Rockefeller was famous for requiring consensus from his management team before doing an intitiative.

In a leader-led process the leader works to get everyone to voice his or her opinion so that their choice and reasoning is well understood. After getting everyone’s opinion, and talking through things, the leader makes the decision that he/she believes best, even if it isn’t consensus. Because everyone has voiced their opinion and contributed to the process, they are more bought into the decision even if it isn’t the direction they wanted.

There’s no right or wrong approach in a startup but it is important for leaders to understand their personal style, as well as the magnitude of the decision, and to decide the best course of action.

What else? What style do you prefer and why?

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