Leadership: Persistence vs. Distorted Resistance to Change

Leadership: Persistence vs. Resistance to Change

Persistence is frequently touted as a critical success quality. Babe Ruth’s famous quote, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up” is only one of many proclamations that exalts persistence.

When we lead teams through change, we hope that everyone will persist through tough times. Persistence is a tremendous strength — unless it’s actually distorted change resistance that blocks success.

Seeing the difference minimizes this risk. As leaders we are more likely to engage employees in innovation when we persist to a goal not when we resist new ideas. In business, we need both persistence and agility to reach a vision.

Persistence. Image is Tree trunk up against iron fence.

Persistence or Change Resistance? Image by: stevefaeembra

Grateful for image by Steve Faeembra via Flickr Creative Commons License.

The exalted status of persistence can distort our thinking to believe there are only two options — persistence or surrender. Surrender screams defeat to the psyche. It brings many people to persist just to avoid feeling like a quitter or a failure. This is truly an unfortunate choice for there are more than those two options.

Instead of thinking, “know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em”, try “we succeed when we …”

Persistence: Perseverance Not Stubbornness

We can persist toward a goal by changing the course of arrival. It isn’t necessary to fly into a storm. We can change course, go around it, and still arrive!

Persistence to success requires change ability. Let’s not persist in specific methods; let’s persist in reaching success. We don’t have to walk away; we can walk another way.

Innovate the approach when the current path is,

  • taking us directly into harms way

  • truly slowing progress

  • eroding morale and confidence

  • against core values

  • crushing us with negativity

  • illegal


when other paths,

  • Can achieve the goal more easily or with unique benefits

  • Engage talents more effectively

  • Connect with positive resources and helpful people

  • Inspire morale, creativity, and productivity

“Vitality shows up not only in the ability to persist, but also in the ability to start over.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Question/change the goal when it,

  • Blocks a positive future

  • Tries to hold onto the past or rewrite history

  • Denies or sidesteps the truth

  • Points to a far better goal

It is much easier to change a goal or a path when we see it as growth instead of failure. Successful people embrace this truth. They lead teams to embrace and develop agility.

Successful people have more than just persistence. They …

  1. See futility sooner

  2. Learn quickly and correct course

  3. Balance their intuition with what is actually happening

  4. Change course courageously without fearing a short term detour

  5. Have greater desire for success than for the comfort of habit

  6. Believe that the opposite of persistence is not laziness, weakness, or surrender

Sometimes changing course is THE method for reaching success — in business and in life. Meanwhile, inaction can turn change resistors into comfortable sitting ducks. Don’t get trapped. Be persistent and agile to find success.

What ONE thought moves you past resistance to change and on to success?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leadership: Do You See Patience or Inaction?
Change Leaders: Is the Beloved Bully — Habit — Stopping You?

©2012-2023 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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10 Responses to “Leadership: Persistence vs. Distorted Resistance to Change”

  1. Kate, you are so great at spotting these points where a leader’s judgment of the situation is critical. There are so many places where it is essential not to get locked up in any formula, no matter how heroic or expert it may appear. We must look carefully to see if what at first seemed the correct road is merely one paved with good intentions (we all know where that road leads).

    I think your insights apply in a wide range of contexts. I think of someone who decides to follow a certain course of study only to discover after years of work that the passion’s gone. I think of leaders focused on a product/service line that was once a profitable favorite but no longer works. I think of business partnerships that began great but now need to fold so that the individual partners can go on separately to their own greater fulfillment. And I think of change agents in organizations who must see their own impact on the organizations they serve lest they get sick with the “change agent flu” — depression and anger. Better to step back, see things as they are and choose another direction or another dream.

    When it’s time to move on, I’m in favor of celebrating — and being thankful. Like certain Japanese poems written on the paper used to wrap fish, everything is transient, meant to be thrown away, even the greatest art. We are all eligible for loss when the time is ripe. We may still feel an inner gyroscope wanting to keep us to the old way. But it, too, winds down.

    I remember a client some years ago. She drew a picture of a hat she’d enjoyed in previous times. It had a certain symbolism for her. It stood for her creativity and optimism. It was such a powerful image she had somebody make a pin for her that she could wear on her clothes that looked like that hat. But then she lost the pin, and was sad. I said to her, “Maybe it’s a sign that you really don’t need it anymore.”

    The point is that persistence has its place — but not to excess. There’s really no place to stop on this journey in order to be comfortably absolute or unthinkingly certain.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you so much Dan for the examples that you provide:
      Product/service line that was once a profitable favorite but no longer works, business partnerships that began great but now need to fold so that the individual partners can go on to their own greater fulfillment, and change agents in orgs who must see their own impact on the organizations they serve lest they get sick with the “change agent flu” — depression and anger.

      The decision of when to change is made more difficult by the inner voice saying “don’t be a quitter”. Your examples give practical oomph to realizing that change is natural and very often beneficial.

      I am grateful for your “adds” on this post.

      Warmest regards,

  2. Khalid says:

    Amazing posts Kate,

    I slept on thinking about this post! I’ve been working on my existing job for the past 10 years and I’m recently have got a chance to move forward to take my boss position but that is still not bound to a period.

    I was offered a job as a tutor in our national university and they offered me a free PHD study!

    Your posts made me think deeper into persistence or resistance!

    Still not sure whether I accept or reject but you enlightened me on a path that I was about to ignore!



    • Kate Nasser says:

      Your journey will take you to your destiny once you take time to assess the opportunities you might initially dismiss. I wish you exciting travels, great exploration, and a very happy arrival!!


  3. Dale Shafer says:

    These lines jumped out at me:

    “Ironically, persistence to success requires change ability. Let’s not persist in methods and moments; let’s persist in reaching success. We don’t have to walk away; walk another way. ”

    As leaders, we should be more fixed in purpose, yet flexible in method. However, it is much easier said than done.

    Great post, Kate. Thanks for your wisdom!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      So nice to have you as a new commenter here at Smart SenseAbilities. It easier to be fixed than flexible — as you say — yet fixed is false comfort.

      Habitual practice, taken too far, becomes an evil addiction. Small explorations into other possibilities preserve the positive and prevent the negative.

      Thanks for your contribution.

      Best regards,

  4. Anthea says:

    Thanks for the post Kate, as well as your insights Dan. I’m currently on a journey where big decisions need to be made to move me to a place of success and life has thrown some curveballs into the mix as it usually does. Curveballs that leave you thinking “perhaps I’m better off where I am” but I’ve come to realise that the paths we travel are full of distractions and we have to remain focused in a sense, and listen attentively to that inner voice because once the distractions have passed we are still left with the reasons why the journey began in the first place. Your post has enlightened me to the questions I need to be asking myself. Thanks.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Anthea,
      So glad to know of your journey, to add a bit of guidance to it, and to encourage your persistence to the better life you seek. Please consider me a resource along the way.

      Warmest wishes and great success to you!

  5. Lyn Boyer says:

    Once again you have very written a very thought-provoking article, and I particularly enjoyed reading Dan’s comments. We take persistence as an important skill for leaders, but when carried too far it is resistance. It gets in the way of moving in a productive path.
    This discussion reminds me of the idea that our greatest strengths may also be our greatest weaknesses. For example, I am a strong advocate of Affective Leadership (understanding and managing the emotional side of leadership). However, I believe it is important to realize that too great an involvement in emotion and relationships can get in the way of productivity or that focusing only on vision, which is essential, can get in the way of achieving that vision.
    Thanks for this wonderful reminder.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Lyn,
      Through your analogy, you have highlighted the essence of the message — it’s all about the critical vision and sense to find balance! I am so pleased that you have added an example that rings true to many people.

      Warmest wishes of thanks,

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