Hold Your Opinion

By | January 6, 2019

[January 6, 2019]  There are many reasons leaders should express their opinion; especially when their expertise and knowledge is significant or where it would do the most good.  Our leadership training and a vast array of research suggests that an inherent duty of great leaders is to provide a thoughtful opinion.  However, counterintuitive advice advocates that as a leader, we should hold our opinion more often than not.

Many say that holding back our opinions can actually be more damaging than speaking them.1  In fact, opinions are what fuel momentum; all ideas, plans, and decisions begin and end with opinions.  If you refrain from voicing your opinion, you’ll be doing everyone a disservice.

“It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

Some reasons for expressing your opinion are: you’ll appear more confident, you’ll drive discussion, the risks are low, and regretting action is better than regretting inaction.  These are good reasons why leaders, experienced leaders at least, should break through barriers that hold us back.  We should never be afraid to let our true feelings be known.  President Lincoln had a different view.

While this is all well and good, many senior leaders have found that holding back their opinion will actually work to their advantage in many cases.  Here are 9 reasons why a leader who gives their opinion prematurely can actually do more harm than good:

  1. It biases discussion of facts and assumptions in the decision-making process.
  2. It ends analyses early, creating a false sense of completion.
  3. It restricts a range of ideas that are never put onto the floor for consideration.
  4. It inhibits a diversity of thought and quells out-of-the box thinking.
  5. It can slow momentum if not properly articulated.
  6. It can hinder junior leaders in the maturation of their intellectual thinking process.
  7. It can also be perilous; damaging reputations and making you appear foolish.
  8. It can cast you (correctly or not) with others you don’t want association with.
  9. A leader’s opinion can be completely wrong.

Opinions can also change as circumstances change.  Leader opinions too change and providing it early, when it is still being thought through and not all the facts are in, may set the conditions for changing it later.  If an opinion is given too early, this could make the leader appear unprepared and undisciplined.  It is often the best advice for leaders to hold back their opinions until the right time.

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  1. https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/7-reasons-to-never-hold-back-your-opinion.html
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Hold Your Opinion

  1. Eva Easterbrook

    This is why I love this blog so much. The articles and the comment section.
    🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Mr. T.J. Asper

    As a leader, the risks in giving your opinion (in particularly early) is high and should be avoided. Just ask any High School student today. They will tell you that it’s better to keep your mouth shut and stay off social media.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      This is their advice, but do they go by it. I think today the biggest problem with teenagers is that they are on social media too much and they think just like the snowflakes in college that their opinion is more important than anyone else’s opinion.

  3. Nick Lighthouse

    In the professional world, opinions can be dangerous. Holding a controversial opinion can damage your reputation; stating an opinion that contradicts your boss’s can leave you vulnerable; voicing your opinion at the wrong time can make you appear foolish.

  4. Janna Faulkner

    I found this somewhere, but cannot remember. It gives a good way to give “your opinion” without getting it confused with the facts. This confusion is often very unhelpful in being a leader.
    Giving your Opinion:
    In my opinion / view…
    Generally speaking, I think…
    Personally, I haven’t the faintest idea about / whether… (starting with this expression may be interpreted as off-hand and could suggest that you have nothing else to say!)
    To my mind…
    I’d just like to say…
    As far as I’m concerned…
    I’m quite convinced that…(only use this expression to express a very strong opinion!)
    To be quite honest / frank…
    If you ask me…

  5. Doug Smith

    Leaders would do well to take note that their job rarely entails their opinion. My advice is to simply keep it to yourself. Let others express what they are thinking, use this info in your decision making, and then go on from there. People will give you more respect that way.

  6. Joe the Aussie

    The primary focus of a leader is to get the job done; complete their mission or tasks. And, taking care of their people along the way. Giving an opinion is not what makes things happen. So be careful. Cheers!

    1. Len Jakosky

      Good to see you’re back in the comment section, Joe the Aussie!! 🙂
      Hope that you and your family had a great Christmas.

  7. Andrew Dooley

    Very good article today. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield.
    My son read your blog today and liked it too.

  8. Billy Kenningston

    Good news, politicians follow this advice closely and hold their opinions. /Sarcasm off/
    Just kidding folks. The biggest problem we have today is that people generally and politicians specifically are TOO QUICK to give their opinions. When the facts come rolling in and after they shoot their mouth off, everyone now looks like an idiot.

    1. Georgie M.

      Very good point Billy. We are all incentivized to give our opinions as if what we say really matters. However, when we are leaders, our opinions do matter and sometimes matter alot. So, my advice – just like Satterfield’s article – is to wait. Oh, BTW, I love the Abraham Lincoln quote. Perfect.

  9. Army Captain

    Correct. If you must give your opinion, be one of the last to give it. You would be surprised how the comments (ie opinions) of others might actually change your opinion. So, don’t look stupid by giving it up early before all the info is in.

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