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!)
But, have you ever tried to lead one?
It’s not easy.
In fact, I’m convinced many strong-willed people end up leading just because they couldn’t be led — and yet they probably didn’t need to lead. But, no one ever learned to lead them.
And, I’m not sure I am an expert. But, I have some ideas — since I’m speaking to my own kind.
Here are 5 tips for leading 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 — shall I say — those of us more stubborn people. If you have a definite idea of how something needs to be done and you leave it as an undefined gray area — we will redefine things our way. Keep this 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.
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 — and again there shouldn’t be too many — 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. They can loyal, dogmatic, and tenacious — all for the benefit of the vision. What leader doesn’t want that? But, those same qualities can be where the problems start also. Don’t cross a strong-willed person over issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. If you back them in a corner they will usually fight back.
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. But, they do resist leadership most when their voice is silenced. Learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions — you’ll find a loyal teammate.
Be honest: Are you strong-willed? How do you like to be led?