Misguided Leadership Belief: Force Struggle to Change People | #LeadMorale

I’ve witnessed many leaders engage in the misguided leadership belief that it’s good to force people to struggle so they will change. It is misguided for two reasons. First of all, people resist being changed. Secondly and more importantly, what is struggle to one person is not struggle to another. When you hear someone say, I struggled in life and learned a lot, it is what they perceived as struggle. That could be quite different than the struggle you want to force on them.



Misguided Leadership Belief: Image is an onion w/ an orange peel attached in the shape of a heart.

Misguided Leadership Belief: Force Struggle to Change People. Image by emdot via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Image by emdot via Flickr Creative Commons License.


Mistaken Leadership Belief: Force People to Struggle

There is an arrogance to the idea that you will change others. It isn’t the same as mentoring or coaching them. Also, when you force others to struggle, they are busy resisting and resenting it to realize any lasting change.

People struggle and grow when they …

  • See a clear purpose for the struggle

  • Receive respect and encouragement while going through it

  • Know they have a choice to stop or keep going

When workplace leaders make life unbearable on employees with the claim they are just “toughening them up”, employees leave. The call for struggle is far too general. It also sounds like the leader is just a power-hungry ego maniac who can’t communicate a clear reason for the struggle.

On the flip side, consider how effective it is to have a clear purpose for difficult struggle. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police expose their recruits to true-to-life severe simulations to prepare them psychologically AND physically to what they will face. They are also building their response skills. The trainers make the purpose of the struggle clear throughout the training.



Misguided Leadership Belief of Forcing Struggle Doesn’t Work Because It …

  1. Attempts to take away a person’s individual identity. This doesn’t work in the common workplace. There are no life-and-death conditions that justify this approach.

  2. Wreaks of macho dominance. This definition of leadership is out-dated, ineffective, and a turn-off. Your goal of making people “tougher” will create poor people skills and more conflict instead of great collaboration and teamwork.

  3. Overlooks how struggle is diverse. People have different backgrounds and experiences. This impacts what they see as struggle. Getting to know them is far more effective than forcing struggle on them.


Takeaways for Leaders

  1. Write down for yourself why you want to “toughen people up.” What exactly is the reason and what behaviors need to change. Until you can clearly state why they should struggle, you aren’t ready to lead the struggle.

  2. Note your assumptions and biases that stop you from seeing each employee’s individual potential. It will allow you to mentor and coach each employee to greatness.

  3. If your former leadership position was in the military or other related life-and-death settings and your new leadership is not in that setting , read up on leadership techniques that work in your new position.




Your Turn: How do you react when struggle is forced on you?


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

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©2020 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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