3 Ways to Prevent Resistance to your Leadership

Every single day, we move earth (with all that construction happening), and we move people (all acts of persuasion are in effect moving people). Effective leadership is what makes it all happen.

Leaders give us a direction, a path to follow, a hope to pull us forward, and goals to meet. Leadership is at the very core of humanity.

But then, there are good leaders and there are bad leaders.  There is also accidental leadership. No matter which camp you belong to right now, there’s one thing you can’t escape from: resistance.

Resistance to your leadership is an emotional response. Maybe to a new environment, new policies, and anything else that demands moving from the comfort zone. Before you donned your leadership role, you may have reacted the same way.

Resistance is common. It’s also necessary, predictable and natural as Jim Murray, CEO of Optimal Solutions International, wrote for Leader Values. Resistance should be expected. As a leader, however, you have to take accountability for results. You need to stay the course. So how do you lead without being questioned? How do you lead without resistance?

Hit the emotions

While resistance itself is an emotional response, most top leaders also hit us at an emotional level.  According to Meghan M. Biro of Forbes.com, leaders have

…an ability to reach people that transcends the intellectual and rational.”

She also states that in addition to working with emotions, leadership also calls for continuous learning, contextualizing decisions depending on situations, being honest, taking accountability, being kind, respecting others, and mastering the art of “letting go.”

Show and tell

Another way to avoid resistance is to demonstrate that you could do the job if you had to – no matter what the job entails. Advice such as, “Walk the walk. Talk the talk,” comes into play here.

When you roll up your sleeves and lead by example, it diffuses the resistance. Who can complain when you are willing to bare your chest to gunfire?

Master the art of collaboration

We define delegation as: give them work to do.  Meanwhile, we define collaboration as: give them work to do, work with them, work together, do whatever it takes, get things done.

Some management literature would make you believe that if you can delegate and supervise, you’ll become a better manager. However, great leaders are masters of collaboration, not delegation. Collaboration demands a lot more than mere delegation, but the long-term results are well worth the extra effort.

Leadership is nothing without resistance. Just like rejections in life make us all stronger, resistance makes leaders better.

What do you do when you face resistance? Give us some more tips.


About the Author:
Mary Prescott is working as a community manager at WorkZone – a web-based project management software company. She is @MaryP_WZ on Twitter. When she’s not working, you’ll find her reading fiction or hiking with her dog.

10 thoughts on “3 Ways to Prevent Resistance to your Leadership

  1. Winning a person over is buy fully in to his / her trust. This is a very powerful tool for getting things done. Demonstrating to play as team and upholding teamwork reinforces the trust. Success in team performance and recognition of individual contribution adds to self esteem and further reinforces trust. A leader is put to test for his/her humane values in as much as accepting him/her as leader is a rite of passage !

  2. It would be interesting to see a follow-up discussion on the impact resistance from ABOVE causes a leader (and thoughts on how to prevent or overcome that resistance). Most leaders are not the final decision-maker, and often it is their reluctance for change (even if they hired someone to effect change) that causes the most difficulty.

  3. Great article! It left me wondering, “What is the difference between micro managing and collaboration?” Some may see a manger or leader who collaborates as a micro manger who doesn’t believe in their staff.

    1. Erica, thank you for your post. Your observation resonated with me. I have a former boss (whom I still work with on various projects) who demands that no one work alone in the spirit of ‘Collaboration’. As a result, I find I get very little (to none) of my work done during the normal business hours with this fella and suffer bouts of powerpoint poisoning. He wants control in everything and only wants to delegate the ideas he thought of. Absolutely no room for creativity unless you first get his “permission”.

      Contrast that to my current boss, he too likes to collaborate and joins me on several projects/meetings, but only jumps in when he has to. He offers resources and often takes on the gnarliest resource fights for us. As a result, my peers and I enjoy and welcome his participation. Additionally, this means that whenever he does want us to do something his way, there is a lot of goodwill in the team to execute.

  4. The best way I’ve found to overcome resistance is to concentrate on building and strengthening relationships. Rather than figuring out how better to “persuade” or “convince” someone, get to know them better. Try to understand what they care about and what they value. Let them know you want and need their help. And that you will lend your help in return. Focus on the relationship, and the resistance will wither away.

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