Leading Difficult People

By Dan Reiland

It’s probably true that the most difficult person I lead is me. 

That might be true about you too. 

But beyond that reality, there are those who seem to be genuinely unaware of the negative impact they have on others around them. And there are a few who appear to get a strange sense of satisfaction from creating problems and getting reactions from people. 

These difficult people might be a volunteer leader, a coworker, a staff member, even a family member. It can be almost anyone you are responsible for leading.

When you allow difficult people to “get away with it,” any environment can become toxic. 

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So how can we better lead difficult people and survive to tell the stories?

Let’s start with what doesn’t work.

5 common responses to difficult people that do not work:

  1. Avoid the person and the situation.
  2. Give in and surrender. Give them what they want, let them have their way.
  3. Allow the behavior to continue. You don’t give them what they want, but you allow the person to continue with negativity, gossip, etc.
  4. Pass the responsibility to deal with the person to someone else to handle the situation.
  5. Power up and conquer.

Scripture gives us insight to a better way:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

The context in this chapter starting with verse 9 is loving people. Verse 17 says “don’t repay evil for evil,” and vs. 19 says “don’t take revenge.” 

The passage provides in principle, the practical insight we need to deal with difficult people according to God’s heart.

It tells us how we should see people. Especially when you read verse 17, “be careful to do the right thing.”

Here’s a great practical summary:

  • • I am responsible for how I treat others.
  • • I may not be responsible for how they treat me.
  • • I am responsible for how I react to those who are difficult.

Set your heart first:

A) Difficult isn’t a disease.
Don’t run from difficult people you need to lead. It’s natural to recoil from difficult people, but it doesn’t help.

While it may be counter-intuitive to move toward difficult people, it’s important to accept that it’s part of your responsibility as a leader. 

It’s easy to love your friends and followers, but the real test of your leadership is how you influence those who test you. 

B) Forgive and let it go.
One of the most disheartening situations in ministry are leaders who become hurt, bitter and live with regret. 

This may primarily relate to the more extreme situations, but it still happens all too often. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s always the best path.

This article will continue in the next post.

 

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