How come individuals do not realize their potential for being a leader? I have often thought about this question so many times. What stops those diamonds in the rough from developing into the fantastic leaders they should and could become? In my work with middle managers and supervisors, I see good people with great potential, who are not living in the space of who they are meant to be. They have so much to offer. Someone in leadership recognizes their gifts, then promotes them to a leadership position, and …. they flounder. What frustration! I am amazed at what these resistant leaders have accomplished and overcome in their lives, and yet they have not translated their experiences into a leadership role. That is where I come in. I am the Resistant Leader’s Whisperer.
What is a resistant leader? I was a resistant leader. I didn’t recognize my strengths, my ability or my potential to influence others nor did I see the path to where I thought I wanted to be. The definition of resistant is to not accept or comply with something, an attempt to prevent an action. For me, that definition was about me not accepting that with my actions and my attitude, I could make a difference. I did not understand how I could enforce rules, handle disciplinary actions, or comply with company standards. When I did step out, I did so with positional power and authority, not leadership. Tough and hard lessons to learn. I created rebellion, people were angry with me, and there was a lack of loyalty because I ‘made’ them do something and did not offer support or true leadership. Because I was resistant to change, resistant to being my true self, and resistant to doing things differently, my ability to influence suffered. To use John Maxwell’s definition of leadership from his book “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.
So guess what? I have found a ‘mini-me’ or several in every company where I have worked. The middle managers, supervisors, and leads and yes – even executives, who do not ‘get’ the idea of how extensive their influence is in the workplace. There was drama, lack of work ethic, back-stabbing, family issues, lack of compliance, territorial issues, and no sense of teamwork. The management found themselves embroiled in all the challenges which resulted in a lack of production, negative attitudes, and a sense of entitlement that affects everyone (‘I work here, so you owe me”).
What stops individuals from stepping into their potential, seeing their influence, and leveraging their strengths? The same thing that stopped me, resistance to seeing their own influence. I encounter individuals who fail to see the influence they have on their family, friends and at work, be it positive or negative. They are shortsighted and lack understanding of leadership, not from a lack of ability but from a lack of knowledge. What I also find are individuals who want to be known. Patrick Lencioni speaks of the anonymity factor in his book ‘Three Signs of a Miserable Job’. It is a deep need in every human being. The failure to be seen and heard hurts deep within. Others have experienced the lack of validation or encouragement growing up and now, they do not know how to handle it when they receive it. So, when it comes to understanding a resistant leader, I know I must dig a little deeper. All the characteristics of leaders are exactly what we need to grow, but I think until we deal with the resistance, it will take some time for that growth to happen.
In a series of articles, I will discuss several different areas of resistance listed here.
My shelves are full of books on leadership, growth, management, and business. I have encountered some phenomenal leaders and authors. What I have realized though, in working with CEO’s, ministers, Executive Directors, and other middle management is that people need and want to be heard. The resistant leaders need to believe they can do better in order to grow. They need someone to see their beliefs and to believe in their potential and to lend a helping hand so they can overcome resistance in their lives. That is why I am the Resistant Leader’s Whisperer.
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