The Best Way To Deal With A Stubborn Leader 


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Few professional situations are more challenging to deal with than a stubborn leader. A boss who debates every point, ignores feedback, and refuses to listen is not only frustrating but also a significant professional barrier. So how do you deal? In my experience, these techniques work best:

Acknowledge the situation. Acknowledging a stubborn leader can be a problem in itself. You may hope that if you ignore it, it will go away. But if you want to deal with the situation, your first step has to be to acknowledge it for what it is.

Work to create channels of communication. Communication is the key to dealing with any difficult situation. And when you’re dealing with someone who’s locked into a mindset, that communication has to be done respectfully and thoughtfully. Start small and try different approaches until you find something that works. Even if it’s imperfect, it’s a start.

Stay calm. However frustrated you’re feeling, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Your anger and negativity can only perpetuate the cycle rather than breaking it, and your efforts won’t go anywhere. Your leader will be much more likely to listen to you if you appear calm and collected.

Create a partnership. Position your suggestions for change in the form of a partnership that benefits your boss, not a confrontation about what they need to change. For example, you might say, “I think it would be helpful for us establish a channel for sharing our opinions. What do you think is the best way to go about it?” Listen to their ideas and agree with as much as you can.

Keep practicing agreed-upon solutions. When your leader starts to fall into old patterns, try to steer them gently back toward the process you’ve established. Keep your own tone nonconfrontational and neutral.

Reinforce baby steps. In my work as a leadership coach, I have found that stubborn leaders are usually averse to diving into the unknown but instead move slowly toward change. Reinforce every effort, however small, and be prepared for progress to happen little by little. The important thing is maintaining a positive direction.

Smooth the way with compliments. Stubborn leaders often honestly believe their way is best, which is why they tend to view any difference of opinion as a personal attack. One way to help feedback land successfully is to lead off with a compliment. You might say, “That approach is really strong—what if we reinforce it with…?” or “You always have such good ideas, so I thought I’d pitch one to you.”

Successful people are usually strong-willed, and it’s a fine line between being strong-willed and stubborn. Even with the most challenging leaders, viewing their stubborness as a personality trait you can deal with and work around can help you improve the situation and relieve at least some of your frustration.

Lead from within: Stubborn leaders do exist, and how you deal with them may make the difference in your own success.

 


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After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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