Overview: Intelligent leaders are aware that by overreaching and aiming to win every argument, they alienate employees and hamstring decision-making. Honorable leaders know how to choose battles to avoid being overbearing and appearing weak. They know when to commit to winning leadership battles and when to let others handle issues.
Leadership is a delicate balancing act. Choosing your battles as a leader requires talent, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and critical thinking. Leaders usually have clear opinions. These opinions weigh more than those of people who aren’t in leadership positions. Some may be tempted to impose their will on an increasing number of issues until they find themselves on the warpath every time a debate emerges.
Leadership coaching has identified a problem with this approach. Leadership battles sap people of energy. Leaders who focus on winning all their leadership battles risk losing the proverbial war.
Aggressive leaders aiming to win every battle stifle healthy debate in organizations. By doing so, they limit their potential and harm companies.
How Aggressive Leadership Can Hurt Organizations and Leaders
Due to their statuses, leaders are in the best positions to win battles. Some may become addicted to forcing their will on everyone. When they do that, however, leaders effectively sabotage themselves and their organizations.
By stifling constructive debate and dialog, they shut down optimal decision-making. They fail to consider problems and solutions from alternative angles. They disregard data and depart from the tenets of critical thinking.
Inflexible, aggressive leaders fail to empower employees and alienate them. When no one considers their feedback, employees logically conclude that it makes no sense for them to provide it. Once they come to grips with the fact that their input does not matter, they disengage and let go of their psychological ownership of company goals and values.
Leaders who know how to pick leadership battles understand they can’t and shouldn’t argue about every detail with which they disagree.
Leadership coaching encourages leaders to strike a balance in their approaches to debate. The balance should not translate to shying away from conflict. By contrast, it should facilitate debate, allowing alternative voices to contribute.
How Do Intelligent Leaders Choose Their Battles?
From the perspective of executive coaching, prioritizing is an essential leadership skill. The first step in choosing one’s battles is to determine whether an issue is worth time, effort, and attention.
Leaders should evaluate the situation by asking themselves the following questions:
- Is the problem important?
- Does it require my attention?
- Can someone else handle it better?
Is It Worth Pursuing?
Having evaluated an issue and deemed it worthy of pursuing, a leader should do a quick cost/benefit analysis. To do that, the leader can ask:
- Do the emotional costs and energy expenditures outweigh the benefits of fighting over this problem? If they do, there’s no point in pursuing the matter any further.
- Do the odds of success justify my involvement? If the odds of success are too low, fighting over the issue or cause is hardly worth the time and energy.
Sometimes, leaders pick a fight over certain things to make statements. It might make sense to get involved in something just to let others know about it.
Going for a Mutually Beneficial Conclusion
Executive coaching values an abundance mindset in leaders. Such a mindset dictates that all boats rise with the tide. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone in the world. By helping others achieve goals, leaders will find it easier to achieve theirs.
Aiming to squash an opponent in an argument is the hallmark of a scarcity mindset. Unlike the abundance mindset, an outlook focused on scarcity limits leadership skills and potential.
Focusing on win-win outcomes allows leaders to have open discussions and develop their flexibility and skills instead of limiting them.
Win-win solutions also grant leaders the freedom to choose their exit points in a conflict and avoid getting emotional in discussions.
Choosing our battles is an important survival skill. In the context of leadership coaching, it translates well to leadership and inter-human relationships.