In 2005, Barbara Walters interviewed Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz about social issues in the kingdom. The interview was the first one granted by the king since ascending to the throne and it was no accident Ms. Walters was chosen. When asked if he thought women should be allowed to drive, the king said yes, but the issue would require patience and time. Walters then asked why he didn't simply issue a royal decree allowing women to drive, to which the king replied, "I value and take care of my people as I would my eye. ... I respect my people. It is impossible that I would do anything that is not acceptable to my people."
His answer was incredibly insightful and showed his keen appreciation for his situation. He knew he had to maintain good relations with the powerful Wahhabi clerics while at the same time moving the kingdom forward. To do this, he had to perform a delicate balancing act, leading his people by walking with them and not getting too far out in front. He was a very wise man.
Lasting change requires consensus. Many of us have worked for bosses who ruled by decree, not bothering to garner support for their initiatives. They thought that selling their ideas was a waste of time and that people were either on the bus or they weren't. It was their way or the highway. Those not on board would simply smile, nod fake agreement and bide their time. But when the leader retired or moved on they would move quickly to dismantle everything the leader had put in place. Because they didn't help build it, they had no ownership in it.
We saw a version of this happen with the failed Obamacare repeal-replace bill. Not only did Republicans not involve Democrats in the process, they didn't even include key stakeholders from their own party. By not including the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus in crafting the legislation, the Republican leadership ensured the bill was doomed to failure. The good news is that there is now an opportunity for both parties to work together to find a solution to the problem. Stakeholder engagement is a critical component of the communications process. If you skip that step, you do so at your own peril. Lasting change requires consensus.