Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said, “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.”
It’s one of my favorite quotes.
So much of leadership literature is about what to do. You can read about how to organize your company for success: You determine a course of action, outline a strategy, and develop the plan.
It is more fun to say yes. It’s easier.
I think every parent can relate.
“Can I have ice cream for dinner?” Yes!
“May I stay up all night?” Sure!
I think every business leader can relate.
“We need to add six people to my department.” No problem!
“I know it blows the budget, but can I still spend this money?” Absolutely!
Saying no, setting limits, and knowing what you will not do is hard work. But that’s leadership.
Renowned strategy expert Michael Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
It’s important to develop a strategy. Whether in business or life, we all benefit from a well-developed plan. When you develop that plan, also give careful consideration to what you won’t do.
What will you say no to?
What opportunities will you decline in order to leave room for those you accept?
What has to go so that other things can stay?
Leadership is not always saying “yes.” Leadership requires that we learn to be comfortable with our “no’s.”