From the time Anita was a child, everyone knew she was destined to be some kind of leader. Her parents called her determined, her brothers snapped at her for being bossy, and her first-grade teacher gently suggested she was “strong-willed.” Anita never felt like she was imposing her will on others. She simply had a clear vision of the outcomes she wanted. Most of the time, others automatically went along.

She’s still strong-willed, but lately, she feels like something isn’t right. Her daughters roll their eyes instead of snapping to attention when she asks them to do something. She’s finding it increasingly difficult to get her team at work to live up to management’s expectations. And Colin, who was so attentive during their early years together, just seems to be ignoring her. The harder she pushes for change at home and work, the less progress she sees.

The people we call “born leaders” are accustomed to getting their way in life, whether that’s choosing what their friend group will play at recess or telling a reticent spouse what needs to be done. When they find themselves in situations in which others aren’t behaving as they should, they become frustrated. What’s wrong with everyone?

When strong-willed folks like Anita can’t achieve the change they want to see, they’re quick to blame others. But the problem is really within themselves. It’s just about impossible to force others to change, no matter how hard you push. You’re convinced you know what’s best for everyone, but everyone doesn’t agree. And while some will push back and argue, most just slip into silence or inaction, which are just different ways of fighting back. Push harder and the resistance only grows.

So does that mean Anita should just give up? Not at all, but she needs to rethink how she seeks to motivate others. She’ll only create the change she wants if they agree her way is the right choice for them. Making that happen takes more than issuing commands. First, she’ll have to gain their trust and convince them she has their best interests in mind. Trust isn’t automatic, it’s earned over time through actions.

Once Anita has earned their trust and confidence that she cares, she’ll need to educate them about her reasons for pursuing a course of action and ask them to respond. They may come back with questions or different ideas, but if they’re involved in the process, they’ll be more likely to support it. Finally, when others move forward, she needs to recognize the process and give them credit for making things work. It’s not quite as easy as giving orders, but it’s far more effective.

Is trying to change frustrating for you? One of our professional counselors can help you unpack your motivation and strategies, helping you see how you might adjust your approach. Why not contact us to set a time to talk?

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