Back to the Original   2 comments

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One of the realities that leaders have to accept is that not always is a group willing to be led.  This can be a very difficult reality for a leader to get their arms around.  However, if a leader tries to deny this, the leader will become frustrated and may even doubt her/his leadership abilities.  A leader is not a leader without people who are ready to follow the lead.  Sometimes you must guide a group with a gentle lead and other groups require much stronger leads but ultimately either approach is only successful to the point that the group is open to being led.

This is not a new concept in any way.  I think this is exactly the point that Jesus was trying to make over and over again.  He even told his disciples as he prepared to send them out:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  (Matthew 10:14, NIV)  Jesus was a great leader but also realized that sometimes people do not desire to be led and there is nothing a leader can do at that point except to move to another group of people.

The other reality that a leader must accept that if a group does not wish to change, they may present an image of change but the minute the leader moves on, everything returns to the state in which they were prior to the leader’s arrival.  This also can be very disheartening because it can cause a leader to think their work was all in vain.  The image that comes to mind is that of a 1970’s toy called Stretch Armstrong.  This toy was made of a material which could stretch but as soon as you let go of it, everything would return back to its original form.  So a person could pull the toy’s arms or legs in all kinds of directions and create what appeared to be changes to the toy but as soon as you let go of those extremities, the toy returned to its original shape.

I think the lesson in these situations is to realize each of them can and probably will happen during your tenure as a leader.  However, do not let them discourage you.  Learn from each situation and determine if there was something you could have done differently to have a more lasting and clear impact on the group.  Sometimes the answer is that nothing different could have been done.  Also, remember that while the group as a whole may not have truly changed, there are individuals within the group who may have changed.


2 responses to “Back to the Original

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  1. Sometimes a good leader can realize the value of pursuing “buy-in” from people who have been resistant in the past, instead of just ignoring them in exchange for approval from those who always kiss up.

    G JoAnn Collins
    • You raise a very good point JoAnn. The key is to determine who are the ones which need to have buy in and what level of buy in is helpful. Part of this is determined by the size of the organization. Another part is determined by the structure of the organization. My experience is that the parameters of this buy in is varied by these two factors. I have had the privilege of working mostly with organizations which have very few “yes” people. Since I tend to be more collaborative in my leadership style, the number of people who ask questions and offer input is very helpful. There are times when leaders need to make decisions that may not appear popular with the majority but are in the best interest of the organization. However, most decisions can and should be in a collaborative setting and input/buy in should always be sought.

      In my post, I was referring in a broader sense than in regards to specific decisions. This broader sense includes a vision, direction, and ethos of the organization. Some decisions are related to that broader sense but not all decisions. These broader aspects also require a level of buy in but may be handled differently.

      Thank you for your comment and opportunity to dialogue!

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