There’s a thin line between stubborn and persistent. Successful leaders make decisions quickly* and change their mind reluctantly. But stubbornness refuses to consider alternatives.
Stubbornness makes decisiveness a disaster. But success requires persistence.
3 dangers of stubbornness:
My observation is that decisiveness and stubbornness often live together.
#1. Stubbornness promotes ignorance. Stubborn leaders refuse to consider alternatives because an alternative might require change. Why even think about alternatives when your way is the ‘right’ way.
“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” Abraham Lincoln
#2. Stubbornness motivates people to stop trying. Persistent leaders inspire people. Stubborn leaders de-motivate teams. Why bother if the boss never changes her mind.
#3. Stubbornness alienates the best and brightest. Stubborn leaders shoot down suggestions and ideas. The best and brightest go somewhere else.
4 ways to deal with stubbornness:
If you suspect that you might be stubborn, it’s probably worse than you think.
#1. Ask a trusted colleague when they see stubbornness in you. Don’t ask if they see it. Ask when they see it.
- What do I do when I’m being stubborn?
- What do I say when I’m being stubborn?
- What changes about my appearance or body language when I’m being stubborn?
#2. Explore suggestions. “How might your suggestion help us achieve better results?”
#3. Put strong people on your team. Stubborn leaders end up with teams of pushovers.
#4. Develop backup plans with your team before you begin. It’s not a change of course if you adopt a contingency plan.
Flexibility has a downside too. When you frequently change course you devalue dedication and hard work.
Single-mindedness is the strength to press through obstacles, disappointment, and resistance. Team members keep trying when they believe you’ll stay the course.
What are the dangers of stubbornness?
How might leaders deal with their own stubbornness?
*I’m thinking of day-to-day decision-making, not high visibility decisions with powerful consequences.