As the startup community leadership team continues to meet and discuss goals, challenges, wins and frustrations, inevitably there will be a difference of opinion. Stick more than 3 people in a room and this will be the natural state of affairs. I came across a discussion in Dave Jilk’s and Brad Feld’s recent book – Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche, A Book For Disruptors. In the book they talked about the difference between agreement and alignment.

“Agreement” and “alignment” are terms used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings, especially in the context of startup communities:

  • Agreement: Refers to a situation where two or more leaders share the same opinion or position on a specific issue. Agreement is more about the shared view or decision. It implies consensus or concurrence on a particular point, decision, or plan. 
  • Alignment: Alignment is broader and more about the process. It involves arranging multiple elements (which could be opinions, strategies, actions, values, or goals) in a way that they are all pointing in the same direction. Alignment does not necessarily require complete agreement on every detail but rather a shared understanding and commitment to a common purpose or goal.

Wow!

I have very strong memories of sitting in various meetings where there was a difference of opinion and an inability to reach agreement. But, I also remember in the discussions that many times we got alignment on the overall goal and thus we did not need strict agreement on some of the details.

For leaders in startup communities, the emphasis should be on fostering alignment rather than striving for total agreement. This may involve:

  1. Encouraging Diversity of Thought: Embrace different perspectives and approaches within the community. 
  2. Building Effective Communication Channels: Ensure that there is a consistent dialogue among all parties involved. 
  3. Fostering a Collaborative Culture: Promote a culture where different entities support each other, understanding that the success of one contributes to the success of the whole ecosystem.
  4. Being Adaptable: Leaders should be ready to realign strategies as new information and situations arise.

In conclusion, while agreement may be important to getting things done, alignment is key for long-term growth and sustainability. By focusing on alignment, leaders can harness the full potential of their startup community, and their members by leaving room for many opinions but continue to move in a shared positive direction.