5 Tips For Leading Strong Willed People

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led? The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one…perhaps you are one. (I know one personally…me!)

I believe leadership should be individualized for the needs of the follower. Read a similar post HERE. With that in mind, here are 5 tips for leading strong-willed people.

Give clear expectations – People respond best when they know what is expected of them, especially those with strong opinions of their own.

Be consistent – Strong willed people need boundaries. They will test them, but they want to know what the limits of their freedom.

Give freedom within the boundaries – Once the guidelines and expectations are established, allow followers to express themselves freely within them.

Pick your battles. – Don’t cross a strong-willed person for issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. If you back them in a corner…they may bite.

Respect their opinions and individualities – Strong-willed people ultimately want to be heard (as all people do), but they resist most when their voice is silenced. Learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions.

What tips do you have for leading strong-willed people? Are you one? How do you like to be led?

For another thought on this type of leadership, click HERE.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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18 thoughts on “5 Tips For Leading Strong Willed People

  1. I wasn’t exactly strong-willed when I was younger, but I definitely wasn’t even close to giving in (I was pretty easy going, but I was a little closer to the stubborn side). When I was younger, my favorite times during the school day were recess and free choice. If you have strong willed children, allow them an hour or so every day to do whatever they want just as long as they’re behaving appropriately and pick up the things they were playing with. With homework, you can ask them stuff like, “do you want to work on your History report first or your science project first?” If your kid doesn’t seem to want to try new foods, say something like, “well, at least try a couple of bites, and then if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat anymore of it.”

  2. What is frustrating to me, though, is that the strong-willed personality generally is accommodated by others because the "others" are afraid NOT to accommodate them. I feel like I bend my will and tendencies often for those types, but very seldom do they bend toward mine….I need to use a lot of words to explain things, or ask questions, or double check instructions, and I get shut down. And the worst part? I am often made to feel like I'm the "lesser person" because I am not cut and dry, black and white, whatever you want to call it. How do I work around this to stop having hard feelings toward someone I really care about? Actually, a couple of them!

    • Start by knowing who you are, what you stand for and believe in, and then measure what other people say and do by that, not by what they say or do. People can only make you feel how you let them make you feel.

  3. It seems to me you're justifying controlling others, or how it's a virtue to be controlled.

    Is there anything wrong in being strong-willed? other than undermining your will to control others?

    • Not at all. If you read the bulk of my writing I'm against controlling leadership. I am advocating leading strong willed people. Leaders lead. And some people have strong wills…people like me…but at times we still need someone to lead us. To assume otherwise is prideful.  So answer to your question. Nothing wrong with being strong willed. What we do with that will is what matters.  Thanks. 

  4. I have had the opportunity to lead among all sorts of people for a number of years including those strong-willed types that keep me on my toes. One key ingredient I have found is to not only allow people to be part of the solution, but to hold them accountable to it. In other words, when people understand that my expectation is for them to provide potential solutions in addition to stating the problems, they learn to equip themselves with well thought out ideas before approaching a situation hap-hazardly.

  5. I’m a stong-willed person, and it helps me when the leader is willing to consider my ideas. Being shut down before they even listen to my suggestions is one sure way of alienating me (I might bite…lol). I taught high school for 22 years and I found that learning to appreciate a strong-willed student for their strengths and trying to capitalize on those strengths (letting them do what they do best) was a great help in dealing with them. We want to make a contribution so give us something positive to do.

  6. As a self-professed strong willed person, I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t always want to be the leader, and when I don’t, I desperately need clear expectations, I do want to know my boundaries (which I will certainly test but ultimately respect), and most importantly, I need to know you’re listening! I can follow you if you just take a second to listen to the guy who’s closest to the ground on this one. I try to lead in this same way – I’ve got strong opinions on how things should be done, but I want to give folks the freedom to find their way through it.

    Another thought, I teach on generational diversity (hot topic in the workplace right now), and the more Millenials you have in leadership, the more important listening to their opinions will be. We’re the generation who was given the right as children to make our own decisions and discuss issues with our parents when we disagreed. Expect this same sentiment from most Millenials, not just the strong willed ones.