Leading into Resistance


Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Consider the magic of resistance.

It’s at the heart of every great story. The protagonist must overcome conflict and be changed on the way to winning the girl or saving the earth. We are drawn to the characters who step into the difficulty and find a way to redeem the pain they have experienced. It’s part of our lives. On a physical level we experience resistance when we attempt to strengthen our bodies through exercise or our minds through learning. Without resistance we cannot run or walk or fly. It’s part of our humanity. Every great invention or creation of mankind has included a good dose of resistance. All the great social movements in history came into being through fierce resistance. It’s part of our world. Seeds break through the soil to produce trees that form strong roots as they resist the wind. Caterpillars fight their way out of cocoons to emerge as beautiful butterflies.

We learn from these examples that change requires action. And action creates resistance. The action may be a single dramatic event or small persistent struggles over a long period of time, but there must be action. Without action to overcome resistance there’s no possibility of a breakthrough. It’s just more of the same.

Despite these obvious reminders, we can easily find ourselves focused on avoiding or reducing resistance.

Leadership calls us to seek resistance rather than avoid it.

So here’s a question for you (and me)…

How’s much resistance are you experiencing right now?

Scale of 1-10?

How about in the last year…or the last 5 years?

How about your team?

How about your company or business or organization?

If the answer is “not much”. It might be time to take a look around and see how far you have drifted. Just because you aren’t choosing your direction doesn’t mean you aren’t moving. The current keeps carrying you along whether or not you choose a destination. No resistance required. It’s painful when you wake up one day and realize just how far you are from where you wanted or needed to be. Anyone who has been for a swim at the beach knows when you stop moving against the current you end up a long way from where you first entered the water. The level of effort will be much greater just to get back to where you started.

Leaders who impact the world for good, who inspire “human progress”, are very uncomfortable with being too comfortable. They want to see wind in the sails. They recognize that if things are coming too easy it’s time to step up the game; to raise the bar and increase the level of action. That might mean changing course, defining a new vision or simply asking new questions and pushing the organization beyond the current comfort level.

Thoughts to consider…

  • Choose goals that will inspire you, and those you lead, to take action.
  • Recognize that resistance is a natural consequence of action and a sign that you are moving forward.
  • Knowing that resistance is to be expected move into the experience, recognize it will be temporary and let it encourage you.
  • Consider how resistance can be an important signal, indicating where you are in your life and work.
  • Learn to cultivate healthy resistance as a path to growth and change.
  • Inspire others to move into life and overcome resistance through your example.
  • Allow opportunities for rest, reflection and celebration then prepare for the next challenge.

Resistance is not futile.

Please share your thoughts and stories.

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4 thoughts on “Leading into Resistance

  1. Great article on resistance, Scott.

    I love this sentence: “Just because you aren’t choosing your direction doesn’t mean you aren’t moving.”

    So true…when we’re confronted with obstacles and barriers, we often need to pivot and chose to find new ways of moving forward, but as you mentioned, the key is to keep moving forward!


  2. Interesting perspective, Scott, thank you for sharing that. It’s true that resistance builds muscle tone and strength, and, therefore, is an integral part of the human experience for the sake of growth and evolution. There’s a different form of resistance to be mindful of, and that’s the resistance against what’s for the highest good of all involved, including ourselves. Drifting, in a way, is a result of that form of resistance. It doesn’t build muscles, nor does it help us grow and evolve and leads to regret and remorse. That said, it’s important not to judge it, as that’s part of our humanity, too. Instead, let the awareness of that resistance signal to us the opportunity to accept the other form of resistance–the kind that we face when we move toward something. At the end of the day, we can’t do life wrong. Acceptance of our humanity ensures that. It’s our ego/inner critic that won’t allow that.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Scott!


    • scott_elumn8 says:

      Great thoughts Alice. You point out a another level of depth on this topic that adds to the meaning people can take from this discussion. As we move into our stories we may face internal and external resistance. How we choose to see that experience can make all the difference.


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