Those who are persuadable have a mindset that is both willing and able – indeed eager — to consider diverse perspectives, especially those that challenge their cherished assumptions and premises. The healthiest organizations are those in which principled dissent is not merely encouraged; in fact, it is required.
In his recently published book, Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World, Al Pittamaldi suggests that being persuadable demonstrates “the genuine willingness and ability to change your mind in the face of new evidence. Being persuadable requires rejecting absolute certainty, treating your beliefs as temporary, and acknowledging the possibility that no matter how confident you are about any particular opinion – you could be wrong. It involves actively seeking out criticism and counterarguments against even your most long-standing favored beliefs. Most important, persuadability entails evaluating those arguments as objectively as possible and updating your beliefs accordingly.”
Here is a brief, representative selection of Pattampalli’s comments on four persuadable leaders:
On Abraham Lincoln: “The story of the Great Emancipator is a complex one filled with inconsistencies [about slavery, colonization, and allowing ’the Colored man’ to vote]. And inconsistency, despite its detractors, is what is often required in great leadership…You can’t evaluate consistency or inconsistency [e.g. Abraham Lincoln’s ‘flip-flops’] without looking at the context that surrounds it. Without all the facts and influences, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether someone is acting with integrity or not.”
On Jeff Bezos: “Unsatisfied with patiently waiting to be convinced that his favored beliefs [about digital books] were wrong, Bezos was intent on killing them himself. And it paid off — big. Amazon and its Kindle device dominate the digital book world…Ordinary open-mindedness leads to ordinary growth and agility, but as Bezos proved, active open-mindedness leads to extraordinary growth and agility.”
On what makes most of billionaire Ray Dalio’s investment decisions so successful: “Dalio doesn’t hold a mysterious almanac from the future that tells him which bets to make, like Biff Tannen from Back from the Future II. In fact, the secret to Dalio’s accuracy doesn’t lie in what he knows. The secret is in how he thinks.”
On Alan Mulally: He “saved Ford Motor Company, not by staying the course but by continually changing course in response to new data…To accommodate the unexpected delay [of introducing a new model, the Ford Edge], Mulally’s overall plan for Ford would have to change. But that was the whole point. This mindset is the essence of agile leadership.”