3 Reasons Leaders Should Appreciate Opposition

Opposition is critical for leaders. Yes, you read that correctly. Opposition is important for leaders.

Every leader I’ve ever known for any significant period of time has described some sort of opposition they’ve faced at some point along the way. Usually it’s opposition to an idea they have or a decision they’ve either made or are in the process of making. And believe me–any time you make a decision within an organizational setting, unless you have an organization full of zombies, there will be some who disagree, perhaps even vocally.

But again–I think that’s not only a good thing, but also an important thing. Opposition should be thought of differently for a few reasons.

First, it shows that people are thinking. If they weren’t thinking, they wouldn’t respond; and you definitely want them to be doing both. Opposition is evidence that folks are at least somewhat mentally engaged in the organization. Perhaps they have a crappy attitude, and maybe they express their opposition in ways that aren’t necessarily helpful; but as leaders, we can still think through the substance of their thoughts.

Second, not only are they thinking, but they actually give enough of a crap that they’re speaking up. What I’m saying is that at least the direction of the organization generates some sort of feeling, and enough of one that it motivated them to act. I’m not saying bad attitudes are OK; they certainly need to be handled. But even your most vociferous detractors may be bringing up good points. Which leads me to the third reason…

Opposition makes you think. It’s always good to be assessing (not second-guessing) yourself and your decisions, and opposition helps you do that. Opposing viewpoints help us better think through our own ideas, and they challenge our reasoning and logic. These are good things.

So what about you? How do you process opposition to your decisions? Have you seen leaders that are either really good or really bad at this?


    • I’m sure there’s a “that’s what she said” joke to be made, but if you’re not a fan of The Office, that won’t make sense.

      But seriously, you’re right. Thanks for the comment.

  1. Hello Matt,

    Great article!

    When I talk to my clients or participants in my workshops, I always tell them that feedback has to be constructive to be useful. If people just nod in agreement or say nothing, how are you supposed to know how you can help them?

    Opposition can be challenging, but it is certainly necessary.

  2. Outstanding, spot on article. Opposition helps breed innovation and those with the strength of character to voice constructive descent we should be happy to have around.

  3. Could you imagine watching Braveheart without conflict/opposition? It would have been a boring movie about a man who enjoyed face painting.

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