When to Battle (The Art of Effective Leadership)

We have all heard the saying, “Pick your battles wisely.” It is phenomenal advice and is great to think about, but is frustrating and difficult to apply to real situations. So, when do you fight and when do you concede and go along with others ideas? Let’s explore this topic.

Don’t battle everything. Picking when to battle is an area I am still learning to master. I usually find myself arguing over things that have little benefit to my team or me. Not that the benefit is the only thing one must consider to make the decision on whether to battle or not, but usually it is better to take it as a sign that if there will be little benefit, then it might not be worth the effort. My father used to say “Don’t sweat the small stuff man.” Most often we argue to win even when it isn’t that important. Doing so creates unnecessary conflict. The problem with conflict is that it can easily harm relationships if the people involved in the conflict are unaware of how to handle it. Take care to cultivate your relationships by giving in and letting others get their way even if you disagree. It will do great things for your relationships.

You must battle some things. Don’t be a pushover; some things are very much worth the fight. Some examples that are always a good idea to fight are, taking care of your people, doing the right thing and not what is easy, and probably most importantly is when you feel your people are being taken advantage of. Many supervisors and managers find it tough to take a stand against their superiors or even other managers. But to those of you that find it difficult, please take some time to analyze why you find it challenging and make some adjustments. Often, a lack of confidence is the reason people don’t want to take a stand. But confidence will come with experience and knowledge.

Self-awareness and honest assessment. Something I find lacking in most people is self-awareness. We have a tendency to think we are how we want ourselves to be. Most often, we are only a shadow of what we want to be. It takes a brave person to assess him or herself honestly and see their behavior. But to be good at picking your battles it is critical to know yourself and your tendencies. By knowing how you react, you can start to audit yourself and know your triggers. If you start to feel a certain way when there is conflict, you can then steel yourself for a discussion about the way forward, or you can know to take some breaths and ask if it is important enough to argue.

The nuances of when to submit your opinion or ideas and when to let things go are never easy. Practice will help. Most of all, be deliberate in your approach to this topic and things will become more natural. You will find a cadence to your battles, and hopefully, this cadence will be a good balance between the two ends of the spectrum.

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