Handling Resistance

April 10, 2019

Leadership is all about movement – moving your team or organization from one idea or project to the next, one goal to the next, one level to the next. Your job as the leader is to generate and maintain momentum.

Sooner or later, you’re bound to encounter some resistance in keeping that momentum going. So, what do you do?

First, recognize the reason for the resistance.

Rick Maurer, an expert at organizational change, identified three basic reasons for resistance in his book Beyond the Wall of Resistance (2010). According to Maurer, either:
• They don’t get it
• They don’t like it
• They don’t like you

Many leaders make the mistake of assuming all resistance falls into the first category. They believe if they just explain more or train more, sooner or later everyone will follow along. This works if the problem is lack of information or understanding, but it can make the situation worse if the issue falls into one of the two latter categories.

When the issue is that the followers don’t like the proposed change, no amount of training or explaining will secure real buy-in from your team. This is the time for engaging the team in mutual exploration to discover what alternative approaches to meeting the goal are more acceptable. As the leader, you may need to give up “doing it my way” for “getting it done.”


When the issue is that they don’t like you, it’s important to work at establishing or re-establishing trust before pushing toward the goal. Don’t think that all the process or relationship stuff is a waste of time…it’s time well-spent if it gets your team on board.

Every leader encounters resistance.

Successful leaders know what to do to counteract it.

Keep the momentum going in your team by understanding what type of resistance you are facing. Then, doing the right thing to move past it.


Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams

Martha and Chris