Echo chambers occur when a leader’s ideas are consistently applauded without question. Rarely are the leader’s ideas, decision-making, and actions challenged. And rarely are ideas brought to the table that do not match or reinforce what the leader has already presented.
Leaders must be wary of the echo chamber. It creates a comfortable façade for the leader, craftily hiding that they are in a very dangerous place. What are the dangers of a leader’s echo chamber? Here are four dangers to consider:
- Good ideas will go unspoken. Echo chambers develop, not because of the team’s love for their leader, but because of their fear of him. They are afraid to challenge the leader’s ideas. And while a team member may have a better idea, they do not share it. So they applaud the leader and his idea, not because it is best, but because it saves them from pain.
- Echo chambers perpetuate a team’s lack of trust in their leader. As an echo chamber persists, the likelihood of a team member questioning their leader dwindles. And so does the trust in the leader’s ability to do what is best for the organization and for each team member. They realize that they are there for the leader. He is not there for them.
- Echo chambers inflate the leader’s ego, making them a worse leader. A leader in an echo chamber will quickly convince themselves that their ideas are truly best. They will begin to think they have all the answers, and that they are somehow better than everyone else in the room. In his mind, he is flawless. He is stripped of humility. The absence of humility leads to the absence of listening and empathizing. And every leader needs both to lead well.
- Because at some point, the flaws will be seen. It won’t be the team members that reveal the leader’s flaws–it will come from someplace else. A bad decision will be made. A poor statement will be spoken. And those from the outside, where there is no fear of the leader, will speak honestly. Their words and actions will be without reservation. And the leader will try to determine how he got himself into the situation to begin with.
Sitting in an echo chamber is a dangerous place to be for any leader. Leaders should seek out differing opinions. They should create environments where ideas are challenged. Because the absence of an echo chamber will produce better decisions and a better leader.