Leadership as appreciating resistance

Am busy reading and trying to do up a grant application, when I should be working on the PhD. However, I couldn’t bypass this quote from FUllan (2001: 65)

Defining effective leadership as appreciating resistance is another of those remarkable discoveries: dissent is seen as a potential source of new ideas and breakthroughs. The absence of conflict is a sign of decay … investing only in likeminded innovators is not necessarily a good thing. They become more likeminded … If you include the naysayers, noise in the early stages will yield later, greater implementation.

It resonates strongly with me for two reasons:

  1. the increasing prevalence of the opposite definition of leadership; and
    The trend towards increasingly corporate approaches within universities means that increasingly there are short-term management positions which have to deal with increasing demands for accountability from government etc. The simple and increasingly prevalent approach is to stomp all over resistance and naysayers. “You’re not a team player” and “Why so negative” are the common statements I’ve heard from this approach.

    This type of success is the “I deny your reality and substitute my own” approach to leadership. It’s an approach that only ends up annoying people and failing in the long-term.

  2. the importance I place on this definition.
    Given the above, it should be no surprise that diversity of opinion is important to me. Increasingly, it is something I seek to encourage in the groups I work with, though it can often be very difficult to do. First in terms of people recognising the value of diversity of opinion. For example, I was on an interview panel where one member refused to consider someone for a job because they didn’t know a particular body of literature that the panel member thought important.

The really difficult distinction to make is between “appreciating resistance” and recognising the idiots. To often resistance is equated as being an idiot, and there’s a danger that appreciating resistance may mean paying too much attention to idiots.

References

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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