I enjoy passionate debate and foster it within my organization. I believe, and history has proven me right, that often the breakthrough idea; the elusive solution; the missing piece in a process comes as the result of going down the road less traveled. While civility is the rule in any interaction, I believe that it's a positive thing to see the proverbial gloves come off. Observe people passionately defending their positions. Stir the pot once in awhile.
Yes, for the meek, these interactions may be a bit disconcerting. From my perspective, debate…yes passionate debate…is an important precursor to the well thought-through idea. As the saying goes, "if I have more than one yes-person in a room, then I don't need one of them." As a leader, I want to know that most of the stones have been overturned in arriving at a conclusion, recommendation or decision. This is especially critical in a de-centralized organization (shouldn't all organizations be "de-centralized"). I don't have the time, energy or interest, nor can I build an enterprise or develop the skills of individuals, if I'm involved in every decision. That said, I darn well want to be confident that the team has worked the issues over and pummeled them within reason.
Likewise, as a strong individual and leader, I must "grant permission" so as to nurture my teammates and make them feel comfortable arguing their case;their perspective; their point of view. My experience is that in many professional practices and small businesses, this doesn't happen. If your team members aren't comfortable saying to you "you're wrong and this is why" then it's time for you to take a long walk in woods. Odds are that you've a top-down culture. As a result, perhaps you're missing great opportunity?
I recently came across a wonderful quote about marriage by author Dave Meurer that epitomizes my message:
"A great marriage is not when the "perfect couple" come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences."