5 Reminders for Attempting to Lead Strong-Willed People - Ron Edmondson

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t necessarily want to be led? The same children labeled as “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults.

Perhaps you know one. In fact, perhaps you are one.

(I know a few personally. The one I know best is me!)

But trying to lead a strong-willed adult isn’t easy.

In fact, I’m convinced many strong-willed people end up leading simply because they couldn’t be led. Yet, they often didn’t need to lead – until they matured. No one ever learned to lead them, so they struck out on their own.

(Be sure to read my closing note if this is you.)

I’m not an expert but I have some ideas — since I’m speaking to my own kind.

5 reminders for attempting to lead strong-willed people:

Give clear expectations

Everyone responds best when they know what is expected of them. That is especially true of those with strong opinions of their own. If you have a definite idea of how something needs to be done and you leave it undefined – we will redefine things our way.

Keep in mind with strong-willed people: Rules should be few and make sense or they’ll likely be resisted or broken more often.

Give freedom within the boundaries

Once the guidelines and expectations are established, allow people to express themselves freely within them. That’s important for all of us, but especially for strong-willed people.

Strong-willed people need to know they can make some decisions – that they have freedom to explore on their own.

Be consistent

Strong willed people need boundaries, but they will test them. They want to know the limits of their freedom. Keep in mind they are head-strong. We’ve even labeled them — strong-willed. They aren’t the rule followers on the team.

Make sure the rules you have are consistent in application. If it’s worth making a rule – make sure it’s worth implementing.

Pick your battles

This is huge. Strong-willed people can be the backbone of a team. Furthermore, they can be bullish for a cause, highly loyal, dogmatic, and tenacious towards achieving a vision. What leader doesn’t want more people like that on their team?

However, those same qualities can also be where the problems start.

They will often fight for the sake of  fight. They’ll push back just for the sake of an argument – which they are not intimidated about having.

It’s usually not productive to cross a strong-willed person over issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. Avoid backing them into the proverbial corner having to defend themselves over issues, which in the scheme of things, really doesn’t matter. If you back a strong-willed person in a corner they will usually fight back. Often everyone loses in these cases.

Respect their opinions and individualities

Strong-willed people ultimately want to be heard (as all people do). They aren’t weird because they sometimes seem immovable. However, they do resist leadership most when their voice is silenced. Consequently, learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions and you’ll find a loyal teammate.

Closing note: 

Being strong-willed (as I’ve already admitted I can be) is not an excuse for bullying in the workplace (or home, or on the internet, or anywhere else). I’m not making excuses for bad behavior here.

As I’ve written in other posts about working with other personality types, these are simply reminders so we can ultimately build healthy teams.

Plus, an important word to the strong-willed person – sometimes it is you (and me) who will be the one needing to change to build the healthy team. A strong-will does not make us always right.

Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues of leadership in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.

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