3 Reasons people resist your leadership
Don’t expect people to automatically follow you because you have a leadership title. If you sign their pay check they may conform but won’t necessarily follow.
Resistance isn’t always bad; it may reflect healthy skepticism. Healthy resistance creates environments where individuals, initiatives, and innovations prove their worth to people with brains. However, resistance may signal deeper issues and larger matters.
People resist your leadership because you’re irrelevant to them. The hard truth is you aren’t adding value or providing channels that enhance their contribution and worth. You aren’t helping them matter. Here’s a simple challenge, ask yourself and those close to you what value you offer? How do you enrich, enable, and encourage the people around you?
Leadership is helping others matter.
People resist your leadership because they aren’t convinced you understand them and their concerns. Feeling understood enables people to personally open up and become open to your ideas.
Leaders understand before being understood.
People resist your leadership because you’re going somewhere they don’t want to go. Purpose, values, and vision determine direction. If your organization doesn’t want to go where you want to go, find a new organization.
In addition, people may agree with your direction but disagree with the methods you employ for getting there. I’d like to minimize this source of resistance but can’t. Methods are where the rubber hits the road; they touch us where we live. Even if you agree on larger goals and targets, if you don’t agree on methodologies you aren’t aligned; persistent resistance is inevitable.
When resistance is an expression of healthy skepticism, deepen alignment through information, engagement, improvement, and adaptation.
On the other hand, resistance due to colliding purpose, values, and vision is a train wreck waiting to happen.
What reasons for resistance to leadership can you offer?
How can leaders effectively face resistance?
Dan, I have found just what you are saying. And most times, being very intentional about listening and trying to understand someone personally caries huge weight toward getting them to line up with vision.
Very encouraging comment. I wish you success in your listening and understanding endeavors.
I agree Artie, leaders need to truly care about their people.
Recognition isn’t something we do 2 times a year for the years of service anniversary and the performance review. It’s something we need to work on every day. Thank you need to be given all the time in different way and be based on real appreciation of the work, effort and good will of people you recognize.
Recognition brings motivation and engagement which is the role of every leaders.
Engage, empower & education your team! Good write up Dan!
I’m on it! 🙂
Perception and ignorance can be resistance to leadership. If people have negative perception beforehand or someone influence them against leader, then leadership can be a challenge. Leaders will face resistance in short run, but they will overcome resistance in long run when people will know the real worth of leaders.
On the other hand, when people are ignorance, they will resist your leadership. so, the leadership challenge here is to align them, aware them and connect them. IT will take time and leaders have to have patience and perseverance.
To overcome resistance leaders should accept the resistance. They should find out reason of resistance, work out to win over resistance. I have seen when people are innocent and do not have perception, then it becomes easy to influence them early. But when they are influenced by someone, then perception becomes deciding factor to create resistance. Positive perception often decreases resistance and negative perception increases resistance.
So, the better way to counter negative perception, be neutral and positive, be fair and not biased.
Thanks for your comment. It’s a short manual on causes and cures of leadership resistance.
The expression “unlearning” came to mind as I read. Once someone has their mind made up it’s hard to “unlearn” them. 😉 Better to align, inform, educate, listen, and explain early.
Best to you,
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
Sorry, just because you have a title that places you in a “leadership role,” it doesn’t mean you are a leader. You idea’s good Dan but there is an assumption there that most “leaders” are good leaders or have positive motivations. Personally, I have not found this to be true. There are leaders whose personalities got them where they are and they are narcissistic, ruthless, unethical, micromanaging etc people who have been put into positions of leadership either by like minded superiors (in which case it’s time to look for a new job) or inadvertently aka The Peter Principal. Either way, such leaders are frequently resisted by those below them and, IMHO, rightly so!
You just added an entire list of reasons people resist leaders.
Thanks for adding value and thanks for leaving your first comment.. come on back soon.
Hi Dan. Well I agree entirely with what you have said. I’m sure Doc will ask if these people should be considered leaders in the first place – which probably picks up on Pixies point.
It is pretty simply, if you don’t add value you ain’t adding anything other than confusion. The best feedback I ever had was in a 360 feedback where one staff member picked me out – and he was right I wasn’t paying him attention and largely becuase i hadn’t asked him or tried to understand how I could add value to his environment. We got that sorted and we were both better off.
Go well. Richard
Since I am the CEO of the Department of Redundancy Department….what Pixie and Croadie said! 😉
I agree with your three reasons, for sure. Two other, related, concepts that came to mind when I read this were “trust” and “fear.”
I enjoy reading about the military, which inevitably leads to thoughts of teamwork and management. In the book I’m currently reading, Churchill and Eisenhower are in a meeting (with others) and Churchill says to Eisenhower, “We’re all worn out by this.” Eisenhower says something to the effect of, “we can’t possibly say that in light of the young men out there entrenched in foxholes.” I was so drawn to the idea that a prominent leader could keep sight of the fact that there were real live human beings out there like puppets on his string, and he felt responsible. I think that brought relevance into that leadership relationship. I think it is easier for us to trust leaders who have “been on the front lines” and remember what it’s like.
As for fear, in the State of Florida right now, fear is infiltrating much of the entire climate of the public sector workforce (in my opinion). It’s almost impossible to refer to it without injecting politics into the discussion, but a new political administration has taken actions which result in many loyal public employees feeling devalued and that their livelihoods are in jeopardy (which they literally are as budgets are cut). You see a lot of lack of productivity because of fear of what’s coming down the pike.
And a quote from Eisenhower to point up my statement about him:
Dwight D. Eisenhower said: I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
Of your three points of resistance Dan, the first two seem to be about the leadership style and connection, or lack of. Being an irrelevant leader who does not know what truly is happening in the direct service delivery does indicate you are not a leader as Pixie noted. And if you are a ‘leader’ there, likely no is going to tell you that you are not wearing any clothes. (Makes your lonely leadership blog take on a different light) There would need to be some hard retrospection to turn those two elements around and it would be very uncomfortable. One way to begin to deal with it is, lean into the resistance. Face it, listen, hear, and begin to change your frame of reference. Be present with the staff more, cover for them for a break (if you can, likely can’t), learn the basics of what is happening in your shop/office/line/work area.
The last resistance point, not liking where they are going, is tied to vision alignment and connection. There usually would be advance prep work the leadership team would do to ensure that the VMV are what everyone can identify with and then working through concerns about the path. Clearly, if they do not like the path, there is still work to do or the resistance and wasted resources will be the outcomes.
BTW, being an Oregonian, I would point out that that Cal player appears to have his fingers inside of the Oregon player’s face guard, which might not be aligned with the rules of the game. 🙂
Doc, I like your idea of “leaning`into the resistance to try to learn how to change, however, I think there are cases where even this will not work out. The reason for that is because the `leader`who is supposed to be leaning, learning and changing can`t: if you`re a leader because you are a narcissistic megalomaniac you can`t change because your narcissism and other destructive personality traits prevent you from recognizing that you`re the problem. Ironically, narcissism, ruthlessless, detatched-inhuman rationalism etc often provide the fuel that drives a person to a leadership role but these personality traits are also the main reasons for those under that leader to resist their leadership!
I think we are looking at different sides of the same elephant Pixie. I agree with you that a too-self focused individual would not lean in, because s/he would not like the feedback that was given and the lack of clothing.
A person with those traits can strive for leadership, would offer that it would be short-lived as who would follow?
There are many of other fuels that drive leadership interest and often, they are focused on others, a common good, positive connection and knowing that many solid leaders are truly servant leaders…serving those who wish to follow a similar path and vision.
Doc, I quite agree that there are many other fuels that drive leadership and, yes, there are leaders who really are leaders – focussed on others, a common good, etc. I am pleased to say I have met these kinds of leaders at times in my career.
I can’t agree with one point you made though and that is the idea that too self-focussed leaders don’t or won’t last for long because they won’t have any followers. I don’t think this is true at all especially in the case of narcissists who are experts at getting followers precisely because they can be so charismatic and good at selling and persuading.
HBR published a piece a few years ago regarding the pros and cons of narcissistic leaders and the author, Prof Michael Maccoby, mentions this as one of the pros but then later says it’s a double-edge sword since this type of charisma fosters both closeness and isolation both of which have negative consequences. The article is available at Maccoby’s site http://www.maccoby.com/Articles/NarLeaders.shtml
Thanks for the follow up and additional thoughts Pixie, great dialogue. Thanks too for the reference to the HBR article, am a sponge for that. Will percolate on this more once I have read the article. Have to wonder, in the longitudinal scheme of things, do those essentially selfish ‘leaders’ have staying power and relevance, within business and within society.
Enjoyed the article, Pixie, thanks again. Not sure of the ways to avoid the narcissistic traps would work…a trusted sidekick, for a narcissist, if it weren’t a ‘yes man’ not sure the sidekick would be trusted. That they thrive on chaos, still makes me wonder if they are true leaders as they are not respecting the work and people doing the work if they are constantly stirring the pot keeping chaos going…
Still a great read, so thanks!
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I thought long and hard about posting to this one. I think INTEGRITY plays a large role in whether or the extent people follow or resist a leader or person in a position of authority. I also don’t support the supposition that President, Manager, Supervisor, Chief etc. are leadership titles. If I were to write a book, only Leader and Lead would be titles of leadership. The other titles are positions of authority and the people holding those positions may or may not be leaders. I see fewer leaders these days, more managers, and many of them lack integrity. On a brighter note, I appreciate your blog. It was recommended to me by a friend and hopefully I will find someone else to recommend it to.
I agree with you Scott…and the integrity has to be absolute and clear, in actions and words. Also agree that there are leaders out there who were managers and through longevity or whatever were promoted to leadership knowing only how to be a manager…been there and done that myself a while back. When I then began to know how much I didn’t know…that’s when the real work began. Still workin on it now…
A considered post on the subject….four words come to my mind…”get out of your own way”, that way, we’re in the best possible place to unify,align and integrate others around our vision.My experience teaches me that the best leaders are called, often reluctantly, that way, they’re less about ego and more about service without being manipulated in the process. Better thoughts lead to better understanding and that in turn brings possibilities for connecting with others around a common vision.