5 Ways to Work with Leaders Who Resist Change

If you've ever tried leading a group of people, you know there are always one or two people in the group who don't see things your way. Navigating this well is especially important when you lead volunteers, because you must exercise great skill and tact if you want them to continue following your leadership.

What do you do when a person resists your guidance? Do you do what you want anyway? Do you take some time to think through their objections? Or do you go for the "nuclear option" and play the "I'm in charge" card? Here are several options for working with group leaders who resist guidance.

1. Don't hang a label on the person.

One of the temptations any leader faces is to hang a label on someone who is considered an opponent. We may say that a person is being stubborn, unreasonable, or is a troublemaker. But hanging a label on a fellow believer, team member, and, perhaps, friend is wrong. It could forever influence the way you see that person, or worse, it might lead others to see that person in a negative light. Instead of hanging a label, view the person as perhaps overusing a strength. For example, if a person you lead is objecting to a plan of action you'd like to implement, don't view them as being an enemy. Instead, see them possibly overusing a good quality: cautiousness.

2. Seek to hear the real objection.

Listen for "the reason behind the reason" when a leader objects to something you want to lead the organization to do or to become. Watch for body language clues as to what the person is feeling. Ask the person to restate his objection, or say something like, "I hear you saying ... is that right?" Ask for clarification until you have peeled back the layers and understand what is really behind their resistance.

3. Pray with the person.

Before a meeting with the person ends, take a few minutes to take turns praying for each other. Ask the Lord to bring about unity in the relationship and clarity of vision for the task at hand.

4. Find a compromise.

Leadership expert John Maxwell used to say, "Find a win-win, or don't do it at all." There may be a middle ground that will allow you to accomplish your goals without sacrificing the relationship with the other person. There will be times when you may find yourself on one of those hills worth dying on, but those are usually pretty rare. Instead, ask yourself if there is another way to accomplish your goal - one that you may have not considered until now.

5. Listen.

This may be the most important thing you can do with the leader who resists your guidance. If they feel that you don't care to hear them, or that you don't value their opinion and advice, you may build a wall that will take a long time to tear down. As you talk with the person, maintain eye contact, nod, restate some of the things they say, and ask questions. All of this will assure them that you are listening, hearing, and valuing what they are trying to tell you.

Every situation is different, and every person is unique. Guiding leaders who are resistant is more of an art than a science. Seek God's wisdom, ask for patience, and always love the person who is being obstinate. The high road is always good ground on which to travel.

This article is courtesy of Groups Matter

Ken Braddy is manager of LifeWay's ongoing adult Bible studies, and served for more than 18 years as a pastor of Christian education.

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