Healthy Leaders


The Importance of Working with Resistance (from Understanding Change)

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Leaders must develop the proper attitude toward resistance to change and recognize that it is not necessarily the simple result of ignorance, inflexibility, weakness of character, or rebellion. It can be the normal defensive response of people who want to protect what they know and possess, as well as their own sense of purpose. 

Indeed, sometimes the voice of resistance can serve as a signal that there are ways in which the change effort should be modified or improved. In this way, listening to those who initially resist can prevent us from taking untimely or foolish actions.

Rather than viewing resistance as an obstacle to beat down or circumvent, it is frequently more realistic and advantageous to see it as intellectual and emotional energy that can be redirected to improve change, once the opponents have been converted to supporters. 

Consequently, rather than launching into lengthy self-justifications at the first sign of resistance, leaders should listen carefully, actively seeking out people’s thoughts and reactions to the proposed changes.

The more that people are provided the opportunity to give input into the change process, the more they will be on board.

One of the leader’s primary instruments of change is prayer that God will open the hearts of the people to embrace His purposes. We must recognize that people are not the enemies – Satan is the enemy.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:10-12)

As a servant of God, the Christian leader must be gentle and gracious toward those who oppose him, even when they are obviously wrong.

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth … (2 Tim. 2:24-25)

Showing respect toward those who resist builds stronger relationships, not only improving the change at hand by putting the leader in a place where he can hear ideas for improvement of his proposal, but also providing a stronger relational base for future changes.

Furthermore, leaders should recognize that they have already worked through the personal trauma and pain of the proposed change and its implications long before they even initially present it to their constituents. Consequently, it is sometimes easy for leaders to “jump to beginnings.” Of course, this is never so easy for others who have not wrestled with the idea for as long and who are not personally as inclined to change in the first place. “Jumping to beginnings” is a temptation leaders must resist.

Finally, leaders must realize that, just as it takes miles to turn a large ship at sea, it often takes years to implement significant change in a large organization. Dramatic moments of “revolutionary” transformation are only a small part of it. Organizational change is longer and subtler than can be managed by a single leader. It is generated from the insights of many people working to improve the whole, and it accumulates over long periods. To lead change effectively, leaders must be committed to the long haul; God is!

… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)

About Understanding Change, by Malcolm Webber:

The world around us is constantly changing, and, to be effective in it, our organizations must change, too. Organizations that do not change rapidly become irrelevant and impotent. Moreover, to fully exploit the many opportunities that lie before us requires organizations that are nimble, quick, and lively. 

Change is necessary for two basic reasons: 

In a broad sense, what leaders do is stage continuous reformations. Leaders go for God’s highest! They constantly challenge the status quo, and when they recognize new opportunities or see something that needs to be changed, they do something about it. Thus, to be effective, leaders must understand change. 

This book is an excellent primer that will help you understand resistance to change, the change process, and how to help people through change.

Understanding Change is available for purchase here. To purchase more of our books, visit

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