Good Leader Tug of War - BFO

Have you ever been on a journey, quest or project and were thrilled to be in charge? You were going to take the team, the group or whomever to the Promised Land. You were going to do things so well people would be talking about you for years— and then the wheels came off.

People weren’t listening. They had their own ideas. Maybe they knew (or thought they knew) more than you. Perhaps they never viewed you as their leader or even a leader. The journey goes sideways, people wind up split into two camps and there’s now a bias for leadership and the two sides can’t see eye-to-eye.

Things Will Go Wrong

Think about it—this happens with people all the time. We disagree. It’s a human condition. Add to this the fact that many people you and I know like to be right. Some folks are even bent on being in charge. You may read this and think all of these situations are ripe for failure, and you’d be right.

Now for the trick (or maybe it’s the flip). How do you, as a leader, get all of these people back on the same page, fighting for the same cause, marching to the same beat, and looking at the same set of goals?

Compromise is Possible

Going back several years, a friend of mine, Roger, and I went on a trip with nearly a dozen friends. Roger had the most work seniority of all of us—he was in management and had P&L responsibility. In addition, he had a case of what I like to call “bossituity,” which is to say that because he managed people in his job, he felt he could manage all of his friends.

Suffice it to say, things didn’t go well. The camp split almost right down the middle between “The Rogers” and “The Steves”. I wasn’t in it to argue with him, but he was overbearing and bullying to all in the group, even those on his team. It didn’t help that he was driving one of the two vehicles.

How’d it end? Well, this particular trip found an impasse that took several hours to overcome. What’s curious though, and here’s the point I wanted to make, is not that we overcame it, but how.

Roger, at some point, whether through the other Rogers or simply because the rest of us wouldn’t assimilate, relaxed a bit and asked if we could talk. I said “Sure!” In all honesty, I thought to myself, “I can tell him he’s being a jerk and get my way.” The good news is that things didn’t work out that way.

In fact, how it worked out is a lesson in leadership and something we can all learn – give a little. In this case, each of us gave a little and in the end, things got better. You might still get everything you want or you may not. What you will do is save the huffing and puffing that comes with wanting “All The Things!”.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”la95W” via=”no” ]Good leaders sometimes need to put away the agenda and listen. #leadership [/ctt]

I’m certain Roger & I called each other some names. I can tell you there was no shouting though. We talked for 30 or 40 minutes and shared our grievances. Neither of us got exactly what we wanted and that was ok. That’s ok in business too. What we did get was a workable solution that allowed everyone to really enjoy the trip.

Truth is leaders need a hand sometimes. I say it was Roger here, but maybe it was me. Thus by giving Roger a hand, simply by bending a little, we found a workable solution.

Don’t Force Leadership

I used the story here to illustrate the idea that maybe Roger didn’t know he needed a hand. He assumed he was the leader, which people resisted. Roger needed help that he could have asked for up-front. Instead, things came to a head before a resolution was agreed to. Certainly, there are times when conflict is healthy and leads to mutually beneficial outcomes. It took some time but we achieved a beneficial outcome.  

As a leader yourself, think about how you communicate. Do you live for conflict (ahem, not healthy)? Do you live for collaboration? Either way, it doesn’t matter – there are times when you need to leverage those around you before the situation escalates to conflict. Consider your team. Where can you get feedback, where can you get honesty, and where can you get advice? Because even if you’re a good or even great leader, you will sometimes need a hand!

Feeling like your agency is getting too complacent and letting you run the show?  Let’s talk – we’re not afraid to tell you like we see it.

Learn more about healthy work relationships with our guide, The Marketing Director’s Guide to Successful Agency Relationships.

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