You Think Flip-Flop Leadership is Bad? – You Might Be Ignorant!

Inconsistent flipflop leadership
It’s frustrating to hear individuals complain about a leader who has changed their mind on a topic, when they haven’t taken the time to consider why the change of mind took place. They crucify this leader for “flip-flopping” and being inconsistent. The world is full of the stigma that consistency is an admirable trait and that to be a good leader you must be consistent, that’s just a bunch of hogwash. Consistency is only a good thing if you are perfect. I love the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, when he said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Consistency is Not Necessarily a Good Thing!

Consistency is just another way to that one “could” describe the status-quo. If we all were consistent, we would all still be pooping in diapers and wearing onesies. I have met consistent sales people that pull in amazingly consistent below margin deals. I have worked with business owners who are remarkably consistent about not executing, and not setting goals. I have worked with employees that are bizarrely consistent about never growing their skills or reading a book that would help them.

Sure consistency could be described as a good thing …in some ways. But it also signifies the lack of change. The very definition of ‘consistent’ is: “(of a person, behavior, or process) Unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time.” I don’t want to be a consistent leader, a consistent husband, or a consistent father; I want to be always improving – no matter how good I become. One of my core values in life is achievement. I’m motivated by achievement. If I was consistent I think I might shrivel up and into a lifeless, depressed corpse.

Embrace Flip-Flop Leadership

The definition of ‘Flip-flop’ in the context I am discussing is, “Make an abrupt reversal of policy.” So as a leader are you afraid of changing a policy or process for fear of being thought of as a flip-flop?

If you make a decision and it sucks, then make a better decision – FLIP-FLOP!

If you make a bad hire, hire someone better – FLIP-FLOP!

If your sales strategy is not bringing in the numbers you need, don’t ride the storm out for 12 more months; make a better strategy – FLIP-FLOP!

If it is not improving, change it.

One aspect of a flip-flop is correcting a bad decision. Another aspect though is flip-flopping because something has changed. Changes like: your industry, your market, buying patterns, a crisis, technology, competition, etc… There are thousands of things that could push the button for needing to change a policy, process, or way of doing things.

Good leaders are strong enough to make the right decision, despite what others think.” Tweet This

There is an art to the flip-flop. But it comes down to the ‘WHY.’ As a leader it is important to explain why you are changing your mind and explain the background information that led to the change.

Don’t be an ignoramus, embrace the flip-flop and achieve great things!

About Todd Nielsen

Todd Nielsen helps organizations create miracles of success and profitability through the power of execution. Having served as Vice-President, President, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Executive Officer of organizations, he has learned how to create a culture that "Gets Things Done." He is passionate about leadership, and is a dynamic and inspirational speaker.


  1. Could we call it rather a “Change” (as it is the only “constant” in our lives) instead of “flip-flop” where I get a kind of negative connotation (e.g.: you told me what to do and then you’ve changed your mind and said that I should do something different) …

    my best

  2. Julie Martin-Beaulieu says:

    I honestly never thought of this issue in this way. This has been a great post for me to read. I tend to worry that I appear to not know what I’m doing when I have instead spent a great deal of time considering decisions and making adjustments as necessary. Thank you for this insight!

  3. Todd,

    Totally agree with your post on flip-flop leadership. Leaders don’t change fast enough if they have to.

    What others think (shareholders being one of them) is irrelevant, it’s what you know that counts. That also goes for the CEO himself: it’s not important what he thinks, it’s important what he knows. If decisions are taken on what somebody thinks anyhow, people with knowledge will react accordingly.

    Flip-flopping most of the time has a bad taste because, as Susan also wrote, the communication concerning the decision is a disaster. I still see decision makers firing amazingly slide decks with no content at all and consequently not explaining why decisions have been taken.

  4. Susan Mazza says:

    Live that you are challenging the status quo of our thinking here. I do think people respect a change in direction when it is communicated well. Do it too often though and it may point to a weakness in how you make decisions that could have those you lead lose confidence. But not changing your mind once you see you’ve erred will erode confidence. As you point out communicating the why is key. It’s just as important to communicate the why when you make a decision to begin with though!

  5. Man, I hate disagreeing with someone the first time I visit their blog but I have to totally go against this post.

    If people have no idea where their leaders stand they won’t follow them. It makes leaders look totally indecisive and, to use your own word, ignorant. I’ve known people like that; idiots all.

    Now, what it seems like you’re trying to say is that anyone who’s inflexible in their leadership is ignorant, and on that I’d agree. Leaders have to be ready to modify and change things up when there are problems, and their solutions didn’t solve the problem. That’s totally different than flip-flopping, which pretty much means the person has no conviction in anything and no idea of what they’re doing.

    Consistency is absolutely a good thing; if I have no idea what you’re going to be every day I come into work, or in my case as a leadership consultant every time I talk to you, then I’m either dropping you as a client and moving on to help someone else or charging you way more money for my time in dealing with you. I’m not putting up with it and neither should anyone else.

    • Hi Mitch,
      Never dig too deep into a few hundred word blog post. What you said, “it seems like you’re trying to say is that anyone who’s inflexible in their leadership is ignorant, and on that I’d agree,” is what this post is about. Leaders sometimes don’t make the right decision because they are afraid of what other people will think of them. I have seen this on many occasions. They get this idea of leadership that it is only about charging through a wall, but if the wall is impenetrable, then perhaps another route is better.

      I said in the post consistency is only good if you are perfect, I was applying this statement to leadership in general. I was not talking about punctuality. Of course there are things that we should consistently do in life, and of course company policies are a rule not a choice.

      Thanks for stopping by Mitch!


  6. Hi Todd, I understand what you’re saying here and can certainly respect that but I agree with both Johns. You said, “It doesn’t matter the reason why” and I say that’s exactly where the distinction lies. The term FLIP-FLOP is usually a derogatory term when discussing politics, which is a shame but it is what it is and you are assigning it to business. That’s perfectly fine but the two have completely different definitions (in real life) when you look at the reason behind the change. In politics, if a leader changes his/her view/opinion/action for the betterment of people and policy, that’s one thing; that’s smart business. If they are making those changes due to popular opinion in order to get elected/re-elected or to save face and the change is not genuine then they are “flip flopping”.

    I don’t disagree with everything you’re saying, I just think the Johns lol have it right. Anyway, I have to say, this is the best quote of the day, hands down! “Consistency is only a good thing if you are perfect”. For that sir, you get my vote.

    • Hi Brian, the term flip-flop in the dictionary does not specify it is only used in politics. I have heard it used in business many times. At any rate, leaders is general whether political or in business need to have the strength to make decisions for the good of the organization despite what people think about their decision.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. I agree that when you make a bad decision, you should admit it and change it. When we make laws that don’t work right, we should change them. This is a significant flaw in our system of government. Congress doesn’t want to write any law unless it’s perfect and they can’t seem to understand the concept of a living document that periodically needs a change – the failure is not in admitting the legislation isn’t perfect, it’s in refusing to enact it out of the fear that it won’t work right. However, when someone like Mitt Romney speaks his mind behind closed doors, insults half the nation and then 2 weeks later says he was completely wrong, that’s beyond flip-flopping. No one honestly thinks he changed his attitude or his mind about the things he spoke “in confidence” to a group of his cronies. There are times when you should stick to your guns, if that’s what you believe. There are times when compromise is right and times when compromise is wrong, and it’s incumbent upon us all to learn when to gracefully change our posture and when to hold the line. Thanks!

    • I agree with the first part of your comment, but not the last part. You are doing exactly what I am describing in the article. You are assuming you know exactly why someone changed their mind. You do not know, the media sure the heck does not know. Also it really bothers me that people will take a statement and crucify a hugely successful person over it. Leaders make mistakes just like anyone else. It is wrong that we should take that mistake and hang an entire character on it. I don’t want to get into politics, but lets just be honest here, and recognize that Obama has had more than his share of screw-ups, and some horrible consistencies. I am not saying that to pick a fight, I am just saying it goes both ways and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can make more logical decisions that create a positive change.

      I appreciate your comment and point of view John. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinion.


  8. It takes an idiot to pursue one opinion with unthinking tenacity.

  9. john philpin says:

    but that isn’t what flip flop is about – sure think – consider – change your mind – with it

    flip flop is about people making calls on what they think sounds best – then or now – to put them in the best light ….

    dont mix the two up – leadership is about managing change – rapid decision making – charting courses through turbulent waters … nobody would accuse steve jobs of flip flopping – but guess what – he changed his mind

    the issue is flip floppers change their minds because they are following – listening to what they think is popular – FAILING to make the real call – and then shifting when they see the odds are against them …

    • There are many leaders who make a decision, then later change their mind (and it may have nothing to do with what listening to their followers) – and then the public, or their followers, blame the leader of being flip-floppers. This especially happens in politics. I find it ridiculous and frankly, childish, that people will blame their non-favorite candidate of being a flip-flopper because they changed their mind on an issue, without taking into account the context and reason for the change. The definition of flip-flop that I am using for this context from is “to reverse a stand or position.” It doesn’t matter the reason why. At any rate I agree with you on what leadership is about, and true leaders know this, and will make the right decision no matter what their followers or enemies think of the change of decision.

      I appreciate your comment John.