Appreciate Your Adversaries, VI

You Could Turn The Relationship Around One of the most powerful ways you can work toward being a more inspirational leader is to develop the ability to appreciate your adversaries. Please understand: I'm not talking about some sort of game-theory, counter-espionage, or battle strategy. To be sure, military leaders and political leaders need to be good at understanding their enemies' strengths and weaknesses. But for everyday inspirational leadership, it's a different mindset. Appreciation is a tool preferred to criticism and complaint; it's a way to seek to turn an adversarial relationship, over time, into something more productive.

It doesn't always work. But name one thing that does!

Most of my clients want to be more inspirational in their role as managers, or business owners, or organizational executives. But some of them have been working under a philosophy of leadership that would be more appropriate to a military commander than to an inspirational leader. They see their adversaries as enemies, and they seek to defeat them.

For some adversaries, that's an appropriate approach. For instance, suppose you're a police chief in a small town. Just by virtue of the fact that you've worked hard and done a good job, you've acquired adversaries. But some, like hardened criminals, need to be understood tactically and defeated with the righteousness of the law. Others, like the lieutenant who simply opposes you in terms of policy (or, maybe, who wants your job), present a different kind of opposition. You'd be better served to reach for the tools of appreciation covered in this series - establishing a mutual feedback relationship, focusing on helping the other person feel empowered, etc. - before you seek to defeat someone who, at least nominally, is on your own team.

Well executed, appreciation tends to ameliorate the hostility and lead to a better working relationship. Think about it: if you're the opponent (and in the eyes of the lieutenant in the above example, you are), wouldn't you be less inclined to use your nastiest tactics against someone when you realize they're not seeking to defeat you, but have instead taken the first step toward a better relationship?

Remember, there are two types of person out there, and in each of us: the self-reliant, appreciative Entrepreneur, and the critical, political Victim. Much of the adversarial, low-grade conflict we all face is due to this difference... at times, you're going to be dominated by your inner Victim, and you'll see those who're behaving like Entrepreneurs (whether or not they're entrepreneurs in the sense that they own a business) as your natural enemies. You want to keep those times in your life to a minimum by feeding your inner Entrepreneur, and starving your inner Victim. And appreciating your adversary is a great way to feed both your own inner Entrepreneur, and hers too... and to keep both inner Victims hungry.

Learn to recognize when your adversary is a person who's in a tough spot - but still your teammate - and when they're an enemy who needs to be defeated. Even if you think you can't turn the relationship around, remember that, for most of the adversaries you end up with, appreciation is the way to go. Especially if you're serious about being an inspirational leader. Get known as an appreciative leader, and you'll inspire everyone around you.


Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As Founding Consultant of Agents of Personal Change (APC), LLC, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money "one less thing to worry about" can learn more about working with Michael...

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