Leadership Education

Yes’ vs. No’s

Mystery Blog • LDR 200L • 1/29/17

Yes, Leaders Say No!

When we received our syllabus for LDR 200 there was an outline for each and every blog post or page to be written this semester. However, all this blog said was “Mystery Blog”.  Saturday morning Jesi finally emailed us with this mysterious topic. Her message simply stated “Does leadership come from a yes or a no”?  BUT there’s a catch, we {the bloggers of LDR 200} must decide yes or no, there can be no sometimes or both. We have to definitively say that our own beliefs or practices of leadership come more from yeses or noes. As I sit here at my desk in Barnes 215 drinking tea, I am pondering whether I as a leader use more yeses or noes and whether I believe leaders who say yes more are more productive/ effective or if it’s the other way around, while also wishing I could say both. My conclusion is that I believe leadership comes from saying NO and here is why.

As I said above, after much tea (and Bach), I concluded leadership comes from saying no, but I will explain why and what makes me think this way. Earlier in the year I read the book Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni, which describes the 25 rules for being a civil human {an important characteristic for a leader}. One of the rules is “Respect even a subtle no”. In this chapter, the author talked about how saying no is critical in many situations and respecting when a person says no is just as critical. Forni went in depth about not pushing people when they do say no. As a result of reading that chapter, I realized that leaders need to be able to say no and that it is, in fact, okay to say no! Many of us know, as a leader, it is easy to say yes to everything and everyone but what makes a leader strong and impactful is the ability to say no. Leadership is about making the hard decisions for your group and being able to stand up for what you and the group believe in. Saying no is not a bad thing especially when as a leader you have your group in mind. The women who organized the recent Women’s March on Washington gathered around a heartfelt and resounding NO that stood for the beliefs of many. NO, we are not okay with this! NO, we will not remain silent! From that NO, four leaders rose and organized millions of voices around the world.  

To be effective as a leader, you need to focus your time and energy on the few specific things you are working on at that time, so you need to be able to say no to getting too involved. If you cannot say no to adding more and more activities you will eventually become overwhelmed and will no longer be the leader you want to be. I experienced this coming to CMU this fall. There were so many organizations and causes to become involved with. At first I wanted to say yes to so many of them, but I soon realized that the time requirements were taxing my overall efficiency and quality of work. I had to say NO and focus my efforts.

While we may believe that leaders say yes, some of the strongest leaders rise by saying NO! Image result for no