Published: 8 months ago

Are You A “Yes If” or “No Because” Leader?

I recently finished reading the delightful biography of Marty Sklar, the equally-delightful Disney Legend who served as an Imagineer for an astonishing 50 year career. He joined the Disneyland team in 1955, which means he personally worked for the man himself for more than a decade.

Out of dozens of “Waltisms” that Sklar shared, this ranked among my favorites:

Walt was not a boss who wanted a “yes” at all costs. He just didn’t like “no.”

Buzz Price, another contemporary, unpacked that idea a bit further:

Walt said that his park was to be a work in progress…This idea of constant reinvestment was a new concept…For me, this great entrepreneurial adventure was an exposure to “yes if” consulting as a more useful format than “no because.”…”Yes if” was the language of an enabler, pointing to what needed to be done to make the possible plausible. “No because” is the language of a deal killer. “Yes if” is the approach of a deal maker. Creative people thrive on “yes if.”

In your leadership, do you thrive on “yes if” or “no because”?

“No because” leaders:

  • Squash creativity
  • Threaten new ideas
  • Hide behind budgets and protocol
  • Get stuck in the status quo
  • Steal their team’s desire to dream

“Yes if” leaders:

  • Don’t necessarily take the first option, but stretch for the best option
  • Push team members to consider various alternatives
  • Ask good questions and explore a variety of viewpoints
  • Consistently challenge the team to bring the best ideas to the table
  • Builds a team that knows their leader is in their corner

If I’m honest, I tend to gravitate to “no because.” And that mold can only be broken by trusting my team, believing the best about their suggestions and challenges, and letting them take the lead while I am content to scoot to the side.

How can you become a “Yes if” leader this week?


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