By an act of mercy from God, you [Prophet] were gentle in your dealings with them—had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you—so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them. Consult with them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him. (3:159)
This ayah addressing the Prophet (s) lays out a formula for leadership -
Be gentle in dealing with people
Harshness causes you to lose your leadership (influence)
Be easygoing and overlook mistakes
Make dua for those following you
Make shura (consultation) with your followers
After making a decision, rely on Allah for results
About shura in particular, Abu Hurairah observed that he never saw anyone take shura more than the Prophet (s). The one person who had every right to dispense with the input of those around him due to receiving revelation is the same one who consulted his followers the most.
Those of us in leadership roles after the Prophet (s) are even more obligated to follow this example than he was because we are far greater in need of it than he was.
[Those who believe and trust in their Lord] .... respond to their Lord; keep up the prayer; conduct their affairs by mutual consultation; give to others out of what We have provided for them (42:38)
The concept of taking shura is even mentioned alongside the obligation of prayer, underscoring its importance.
When we face a critical juncture in life - moving, marriage, business, career, and so on - we rely on those close to us for advice. This advice should remove blind spots and mitigate biases in our decision-making process.
One problem that many leaders run into, particularly as they become more successful, is that they seek less and less input from their inner circle. Those who should be in a position of advice will stop challenging a leader, or become yes-men. Surrounding yourself with people who only tell you what you want to hear is the easiest way to guarantee failure for yourself.
Regardless of where you are in your leadership journey, cultivating a strong inner circle - a personal shura council - is of vital importance.
Who should occupy a seat in your personal shura council?
Parents and spouses are great. They hold the unique position of truly wanting the best for you no matter what while being able to push and challenge you freely.
Even if you feel your family is not in a position to offer qualified input in the sense of life or industry experience they should still be consulted because whatever decisions you make will directly impact them. When leaders ignore shura from their family, it is not uncommon for them to achieve a high degree of success while losing their family in the process.
These aren’t the people who like all your posts on Instagram. Your close friends are those who have expertise in you. They know you well, and they’ve known you for a long time. They have your best interest at heart and can call you out without you taking it personally.
The friends who best serve this role are those who have known you long before any position you’ve gained or recognition you’ve received.
This is someone who is rooting for you, but also holds a high level of respect in your eyes (i.e. an old manager would work, but your 10-year-old kid would not). This is a person you go to when things may seem tough and they can help guide you.
Someone who has been down the path you want to go down. A mentor is not only one person. It is wise to have different mentors for different facets of life. One person may be a mentor when it comes to your career, and someone else may be your mentor in regards to parenting.
These are people who see what is ahead and help prevent you from making mistakes.
Make sure your inner circle doesn’t all come from the same background. I was at a business dinner, and a minority woman said she always made sure to have an old white man as a mentor in her inner circle because she wanted someone who saw the world without the same limitations as she did. When the people around you have different experiences and backgrounds, they are more likely to see the blind spots you miss.
Your personal shura council does not need to be large in number, but it does need to be tight-knit. The key is having people who can speak freely with you without you taking any negative feedback personally.
After taking shura, remember to complete the process by putting trust in Allah by performing the istikharah prayer.
As the Prophet (s) told the companion who asked about whether he should tie his camel or have tawakkul (trust) in Allah - tie your camel and have trust in Allah. We follow the same formula here. Tie the camel by taking shurah, and then have trust in Allah by making istikharah.