Leading in Spite of Opposition

It can be hard to lead people who aren’t really in favor of you being the leader in the first place. Perhaps they are skeptical about your abilities, or maybe they just wanted a different person to get the job. It may be that one of the existing team members applied for the job and didn’t get it. It’s not exactly like walking into the lion’s den, but then again, it’s not far from it either.

If that’s your situation, is it even possible to succeed?

There are tangible behaviors that a leader can exhibit that can neutralize and even win over people who initially oppose them. There are no guarantees in life, but if you’re facing this kind of opposition, I believe that intentionally doing these things can prove to be a game changer.

  1. Practice Two-Way Communication – It is immensely important to communicate verbally and to do so in an articulate manner, but it is also important to listen to the thoughts, perspectives, and emotions of others. And I mean really listen. Listen without formulating your response while they are still speaking. Listen without prejudice. Remember the words made famous by Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  2. Differentiate Yourself Emotionally – It’s easy to be defensive when someone seems to be against you from the beginning. Often the one who attacks us so viciously will excuse it by saying, “It’s not personal.” However, there’s a lot of uncertainty about when it’s about the issue and when it’s personal, right? Strong leaders are able to concentrate on what they have control over and to do the things that ultimately lead to success for everyone.
  3. Demonstrate Competency that Enables Others – If you can lead in a way that enables people to be successful, it’s pretty difficult for them not to support you. Develop a “culture” that is fair and respectful. Prove that you can be trusted by keeping your promises. Demonstrate goodwill toward others and keep everyone’s eye on the common goal.
  4. Share Success Willingly – I worked for a coach once whose philosophy about the spotlight was unique. He said, “If we do it and it fails—I did it. If we do it and it is successful—we did it. If we do it and it is extremely successful—you did it.” People don’t want to work as hard as they can to succeed, only to have it never be genuinely acknowledged. Share the Spotlight!

Mature leaders lead in an effective way, regardless of opposition, that brings success and goes a long way toward turning foes into friends. You can do it!  That’s why you’re the leader!

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

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