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The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. Kenneth Blanchard

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Lead projects successfully despite opposition

Lead projects successfully despite opposition

What could be more painful than the emergence of strong opposition to a project? Your attitude towards opposition is decisive. How can you respect your active opponents without neglecting your allies or the silent majority?


When launching a change project of any sort, you inevitably expose yourself to resistance or even open opposition.

How you react to this opposition is decisive to the success of the project.

Indeed, how can you implement change successfully if even a small minority actively resists it? Admittedly, you could use your authority to force people to comply, but everyone knows that passive resistance can be devastating. Or you might think that if the majority supports the project, success is ultimately assured.  Yet, how many projects have failed because a small number of active opponents manage to sow doubt or create roadblocks? A better strategy is thus to get to the root of the problem and overcome objections early on, rather than suffer the slings and arrows of a frustrated minority.

In fact, the right attitude toward opposition can be a powerful tool to garner support for a project. This was a revelation to the chairman of an association who wanted to propose a massive investment project with serious consequences. The decision had tobe made by majority vote of the members.  A prior study had shown that about 55 percent were in favor; fewer than 10 percent were firmly opposed, and the rest were undecided.  When the project was first presented, opponents raised an outcry. When the president tried to address their objections, the entire room buzzed with debate. Project partisans and opponents argued heatedly and treated one another to all sorts of names. “Nothing was left unsaid,” declared one of the participants. When the vote was finally taken, the chairman was surprised to discover that 80 percent of the members decided to vote “for” the project. “Motivation had never been so palpable,” he points out. “We had to go though Hell to get there, but everyone came out knowing why they were committing themselves.”

Investing the time and energy needed to manage opposition—even by a small minority—is highly profitable.  But how can you keep opponents from contaminating everyone else in the process?


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