When Should Leaders Change Their Minds?

The following is a guest post by Dr. Jeff Iorg. Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, including Seasons of a Leader’s Life, The Painful Side of Leadership, and Unscripted. Iorg, and his wife Ann have three children and live in Mill Valley, Calif. His hobbies include umpiring baseball, reading, and searching for the world’s best barbeque restaurant. His personal ministry includes outreach to the professional baseball community in the Bay Area.

Leaders have strong opinions. We study long and hard before we make up our minds, then we hold to our positions. I sometimes joke, “I may be wrong, but I’m never in doubt.” Leaders hold convictions. We don’t adopt every new idea that comes along. We cherish timeless truth and implement proven strategies. We aren’t swayed by every wind of doctrine or Web-driven fad.

Despite how firmly we hold our convictions, we are also learners — meaning we are open to new ideas. When we discover new insights, we are humble enough to change our minds. When we are wrong, we admit it and move forward. But with new information generated daily and all the different biblical interpretations being proposed, how do you know when to change your mind?

When God Teaches You Something New

The most obvious answer is when God teaches you something new. God speaks primarily through the Bible and never in contradiction of the Bible. Improving your study skills, while simultaneously moving through the leadership seasons, produces a synergistic progression, interweaving biblical truth with life and ministry needs. This produces new insights at just the right time to keep you growing and developing as a leader. Only God can do this! He has a magnificent capacity to shape you continually throughout your lifetime. God will change your thinking in important ways at crucial times.

When You Discover New Insights

You should also change your mind when you learn new, non-contradictory, extra-biblical information. For me, learning accounting principles changed my thinking about corporate financial management. Understanding employment law made me a better personnel administrator. Discovering my preferred learning style, my personality profile, my way of expressing and receiving love, and how my upbringing shaped my psyche changed me in many ways. Formal education, continuing education, and personal growth are important for leaders. As you learn new information, change your mind, and change your practices, you become a different and better leader.

When You’re Wrong

You should also change your mind when you’re wrong. If “I love you” are the three most powerful words in a romantic relationship, then “I was wrong” may be the three most important words in a leadership relationship. Some leaders simply can’t admit fault. When pressed, one leader told me he could not remember one — not even one — significant leadership mistake he had ever made. He wrongly assumed that showing weakness, even in a private conversation, would diminish his leadership stature in the eyes of his followers.

Some leaders believe that admitting fault, expressing uncertainty, or changing their mind lowers their esteem among their followers. The opposite is true. Admitting doubt or uncertainty establishes humanity and creates authenticity in leadership relationships. Beyond that, owning up when you have been wrong strengthens your relationships with followers. It demonstrates humility and invites others to help you think more clearly or find new solutions.

When you are wrong, admit it. When you need to change your mind, do it. Learn to work through both processes faster. Change your thinking, chart a new course, and lead on.

Excerpted from Seasons of a Leader’s Life by Jeff Iorg. Copyright 2013 by B&H Publishing Group.