One thing about being in leadership positions is it puts a bullseye on you. Leaders get a lot of criticism, just look at any political opinion post for proof. Politics, home, church, or work, the leaders get more criticism than encouragement.
It’s understandable that we become guarded when people approach with an opinion. It doesn’t mean it’s a wrong opinion, but it can be taken that way depending on how we’re approached.
There are four types of problems at play here. All related to status, territory, or protocols, according to Rory Miller in ConCom: Conflict Communication A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication.
- Status Checking: Who is this person, where do they fit, and what is their intent.
- Dominance: The levels fluctuate depending on the type of group. Anything that threatens the status of the leader can trigger irrational emotions and impulses. Seeing it as a challenge to their authority, they may assert it by ignoring the opinion or help.
- We Don’t Do That Here: Every group has rules and protocols, usually unofficial but still enforced.
- You Don’t Belong Here: Some groups have subgroups with strong tribal identities. The key is gracefully crossing that line.
Understand this, if it feels like a personal attack, it’ll be seen as one. Whatever legitimate issue you have is blown out of the water until that’s resolved.
The approach should be humble, acknowledging your place. Don’t come in as an authority figure, instead be reluctant, without a self-serving agenda.
It helps to have a proven track record with that person. If you have ideas and plans, and are willing to make it happen, that will help. You have to model the change you want to see.