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07 Jul '14

The difference between resolve and pushiness in leadership

Posted by T.J. Addington
Leaders are by definition people with resolve. They believe that a certain path is the right path and will seek to move other leaders and the organization down that path. Along they way, they are not intimidated by barriers but seek to find ways to resolve those barriers. 

Some leaders, however, are pushy and sometimes even bully or intimidate others to get their way. That is resolve but it is usually a personal agenda rather than a corporate agenda and in the end hurts our cause more than it helps. Here are some downsides of being pushy to get our way.

First, people may accede to us because we have worn them down but that does not mean that we have buy in. We won the war of getting our way but probably lost valuable leadership coinage in how we did it. Assent is not the same as support.

Second, if things go south after we have pushed people to accept our agenda, they will not be helping pick up the pieces. Why should they? It was not their agenda but ours. In fact, they are liable to think we pretty much got what they expected!

Third, when there is not corporate buy in by the key stakeholders we are operating alone and autonomously. When pastors make key decisions without the support of their board or senior staff, for instance, they are walking alone. Being alone is dangerous as we are likely to overlook unintended consequences which would have become evident if a larger group was involved in the decision.

Healthy resolve comes out of conviction of a healthy direction for our team or organization. However, it is also tested for support. There have been times when I suggested key directional moves when my senior team was not ready for what seemed a radical decision. I chose to back off, keep in dialogue and try again when the timing was right - and we were able to move forward. In some cases not everything went as planned and we learned lessons along the way and tried again. The key thing was that I had the support of those who needed to buy in so I was not left hanging on my own.

I have met some pushy leaders. They got what they wanted for a period of time but when push came to shove, they were abandoned by those around them who felt used rather than engaged. Team members eventually concluded that it was not healthy resolve but pushiness and manipulation that allowed their leader to get his/her way and that in failing to engage them (and marginalizing them when they disagreed) it was more about a personal than a corporate agenda.

Resolve is healthy. Being pushy and manipulative is not. Nor does it work in the long run.