The best leaders lead with both their heads and their hearts. In times of change, leaders who lead primarily with their heads often show impatience and frustration when others don’t seem to be on board, and when they don’t move forward at the expected pace. A leader who doesn’t connect with and inspire others actually ignites more of the resistance they are reacting to.
It can take a long time, and often more than a few change management train wrecks, to begin to understand how to interpret and manage resistance… in ourselves and others. There are some for whom this ability seems to develop easily, but not me. My method was to try logic – at least 10 different ways, then persuasion, and finally just to push it through. Not only did it not work – it created barriers, disrupted trust, and caused me to have to ‘back up the train’ often, which delays implementation, while creating even more cynicism and resistance in the team.
What I learned the hard way is this:
Moving forward with a reluctant team is like trying to push a train with no wheels up a hill. It’s all on you; it’s exhausting and dispiriting – and when it inevitably rolls back on you – it’s painful and disruptive.
I encourage you to think about the changes people are experiencing amidst significant change – more so if there is new leadership. The majority are feeling off-center and fearful, and they will typically communicate that in many direct and indirect ways – some of which will be passive-aggressive, and most of which will look and feel like resistance.
For the leader who has not developed the self-awareness and emotional intelligence to connect and engage, managing change can be a long and painful battle. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a losing battle – a primary reason that an estimated 70% of change initiatives fail.
For an independent, self-sufficient leader, it is challenging to accept feedback and to reach out for the mentoring and coaching that leads to self-awareness…the first step toward learning how to communicate with empathy and authentically connect with colleagues.
Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning. ~Warren Bennis
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