Call it what you will – resistance, pushback, challenge, opposition – it’s basically an opposing force that slows or stops movement. Anyone in leadership, be it parenting, teaching, directing government agencies or multinational organizations, should come to expect resistance.
It’s vital to NOT be surprised when resistance emerges. In fact, it is an element in the process that should be welcomed. Welcome it, then learn to handle it correctly.
All of us from time to time, resist. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from real or perceived danger, most notably when change is unfolding. In and of itself, resistance is not a bad thing. It’s merely energy. If we can effectively redirect that energy, we can move the resistance in the direction of change.
The first signal resistance sends to our mind is “I don’t like this change. In fact, I don’t like ANY change.” The second thing resistance signals “OK, I can tolerate some change but now you’re going too fast!”
When you get the resistance-caused signal, it’s up to you to figure out what the signal means. The same principle applies when your smoke detector goes off in your house late at night. You can say to yourself ‘darn smoke detector!’ while you rip it off the wall and destroy it. Or you can try to figure out what the detector is signaling to you. If there’s a fire you surely want to know about it.
Resistance tends to signal that issues lurk under the surface and are tapping into our most deeply held values (what we call ‘transformational’ issues). That’s one of the great benefits of resistance – it signals deeper issues. But it’s easy to miss the benefit; we find that may people choose surface-level ‘tactical’ approaches to solving transformational challenges. When we do this, the resistance continues and the “solution” becomes the problem.
Most of us don’t recognize and adapt to a transformational challenge. We end up butting our heads against the resistance instead of listening to the signal, intuiting what it is saying, and deciding what to do next.
Your job as a leader is to find themes and possibilities, to stay in the Blue Zone and realize “It’s not about me, it’s about the mission”.
Once you adopt that perspective you’ll be able to respect those who resist and use the energy resistance generates to insure your success.