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Appreciate Your Adversaries, X

February 26, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 143

Do You Seek Compliance, Or Commitment?

Do you have what it takes to be a truly inspirational leader? To be a good, solid manager, you need only follow the "cookbook recipe" taught at any vocational program or business school. To be a leader, you have to go beyond the recipe, and to take ownership (and personal responsibility) for the overall program under your charge. But inspirational leaders consistently do things they don't "have" to do, things that are beyond their job description. And if you want to join their ranks, one of the first things you must learn to do is to appreciate your adversaries.

If for no other reason than that there are two types of person out there (and in each of us), you will find yourself with adversaries in your career and life. Each of us will be dominated in our daily life by the inner image we feed. I call one of those inner selves "The Victim" - a person who is critical, political, and would never be an inspirational leader. The other inner self I don't call the "victor," because that implies a win-lose attitude that's not felt by your better self - so I call that self "The Entrepreneur." That name fits better. Where the Victim is critical of others as a first reaction, the Entrepreneur is appreciative, seeking always to learn what she can from everyone (even her adversaries). While the Victim is political, the Entrepreneur is collaborative, looking for a win for everybody. And while the Victim only wants to be the "theater critic," taking issue (often picking nits) with the way another person leads, the Entrepreneur is bold enough to step out onstage and take the criticism, in the interest of performing at a high level (regardless of the personal risk).

When people are led by an Entrepreneur (whether that person is a business owner or merely an entrepreneurially-minded leader), they get passionate about what THEY (not the leader) can accomplish. They get inspired. When people have a Victim placed in charge of them, they get tired.

As I've described in this series, learning to appreciate your adversaries (and show it) is a great way to nourish your inner Entrepreneur (and that of the people you're leading), and to leave the inner Victim hungry (as well as the Victims inside your teammates).

Start by asking yourself what's good about the people you tend to see as "bad." You don't think of yourself as a judgmental person? Prove it. When you see the word "adversary," it makes you think of someone, at work, at church, or even at home, who's bugging you these days. If you can find what's good about that person (and focus on it), you've come a long way toward inspirational leadership.

At that point, you can take on the other suggestions in the series: establishing a feedback relationship (and even a coaching relationship) with your adversaries, appreciating how your own tendencies contribute barriers to collaboration, seeing the benefits of appreciation, and forgoing unnecessary retaliation (even when it's richly deserved). You begin to realize that the overwhelming majority of your adversaries are not "enemies" (folks who've adopted Victimhood as more-or-less a permanent lifestyle), but are people like yourself who may need help rising above their own personal challenges. You might be the only source of appreciation they get these days, and therefore your generosity of spirit could be their last/best hope for turning around a tough spot in their lives.

That's inspiring!

A parting thought as we close this series on appreciating your adversaries - and it's probably better posed as a question. As you think about the outcomes you're seeking in your interaction with your adversary, do you want compliance from that person, or commitment? As I've mentioned, when you truly have a dug-in "enemy" who refuses to meet you part-way in rehabilitating the relationship, you have to engage and "defeat" him. In business, this often means taking off the leadership hat and reverting to management, employing the mainstay of the solid manager ("progressive discipline"). You demand compliance with the rules, whatever they are, and if you don't get that compliance, you escalate the discipline until the Victim is flushed from the organization.

If you've taken that route with all your adversaries, here's some bad news: you might be getting good at meting out progressive discipline, but you're not moving toward becoming an inspirational leader. In fact, you might be a Victim-type yourself. And by the way, how's that working out for you? You've tried the battle tactics... next time, reach for appreciation. What do you have to lose?

Think about this: if you really want that person's commitment, you're looking for both performance and attitude. You're looking for passion and accomplishment. You've already decided this is a person with whom you can and should work... someone you hope to inspire... and, therefore, if only on a subconscious level, your instinct tells you there's something to appreciate about that person.

If you can appreciate your adversaries, you can be an inspirational leader. If you can't, chances are you'll never be seen as more than a competent manager... and, over time, even that modest sort of reputation might be beyond your reach.

Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.

Michael and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael's web site at

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