Creative LeadershipCreativity

Your Boss Won’t Listen? Then Quietly Make Changes On Your Own

I met someone recently who heard me speak at an international conference a few years ago. She was managing the local office for a major American media ministry in that country. She told me that after hearing me speak at the original conference, she was excited to go back and start using the ideas I shared, but when she talked to her boss, he completely shut her down.

“That isn’t the way we do things here” (a phrase you’ve probably heard before.) He wasn’t remotely interested, so she was in a quandary. Her boss was a traditional thinker, and a little fearful as well. She wanted to be respectful to him, but she also knew the ideas would work.

After reflecting on her options, the woman told me that instead of fighting the boss, she would just start quietly implementing my ideas on her own. Without making a big deal, she started making tiny changes behind the scenes, starting with her own work habits. As others saw her becoming more productive, they started adopting the ideas as well.

Now, 3 years later she wanted to tell me that since activating those ideas I taught, their office has grown exponentially. In fact, she shared that her relatively small country’s office now represents more than a third of the total ministry’s worldwide income and response.

I realized in that moment that regular, everyday employees don’t have to feel frustrated or shut down when working with a stubborn, traditional thinking boss. Always start with yourself. Make small changes where you can, and let it grow from there.

And for the record, I’m not advocating disobedience in the office.  Leaders deserve respect, and that’s why I suggest you start small and start with yourself.  Make sure it’s working, and only then increase the changes as you’re comfortable. My friend John Maxwell calls it “Leading from the middle.”

And her boss?

He still has no clue. But he’s thrilled at their success.

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6 Comments

  1. Love this thought and thinking! It speaks to the revolutionary in me! The most effective change is one you can begin to implement with yourself! Then others will begin to follow. I’ve always believe this!

    I once shared this philosophy with my husband about how you should act first and others will follow. I then looked over at him, and saw that HE was washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. He silently nodded his head and said, Yeah! I agree. I then realised the flaw in my word and actions. He was the one leading! I was the one talking about leading! Ha!

    So what was this life-changing advice you taught at the Conference?

  2. Great points Phil. I remember hearing a peer of mine in seminar say, “I can’t wait to get my position/title, then people will listen to me.” Unfortunately, my response was not filled with grace as I responded, “No they won’t. If they don’t listen to you now, they won’t listen to you then either. A title or position doesn’t make you a Leader. Leadership is influence.”

    One of the best qualities of a leader is one who leads by example. Applying leadership principles in your life personally, earn you the right to be heard. People will listen because they have seen your productivity and desire to do the same.

  3. I’ve been trying to find where this quote actually comes from, growing up I was told it came from Lord Baden Powell: ‘Bad leaders lead from the back, good leaders lead from the front, but of truly great leaders they say “we did it ourselves”‘. I don’t believe leaders deserve respect, I believe they gain respect as a result of their actions and attitude. I believe the primary role of leaders is to empower those they are serving. It is where the body of Christ inverts the pyramid, normally the workers are at the bottom of the pyramid with the leader at the top. Jesus inverted that pyramid, with the leader born to serve those above him in the pyramid. It is the servant leadership model we should follow. Then everyone will say “we did it ourselves”.

    1. Great points all around Richard. Leaders are necessary in this world, but I couldn’t agree more with your point of releasing people to feel they made the ultimate contribution. Real leaders don’t mind who gets the credit…

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