A common definition of a coalition is an alliance for combined action. Most teams and organizations fit this description – or do they?
I think they do fit… if we consider that some coalitions will be of the willing, and some will be of the unwilling. In the latter case, members are forced into forming an alliance. And they usually fail, especially when the pressure is on.
How you build and sustain a coalition of the willing is one of the greatest leadership challenges. If it were easy to build high performing, resilient teams where everyone is “all in”… we wouldn’t need leader development programs! We’d just use formulas and recipes, and ‘download’ leadership from the internet.
But leadership is art, not science. People are complex animals. We are tribal, moody, and dominated by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Creating a coalition of the willing under these conditions means we must “bring it” as leaders every day.
How can we be successful in the art of leadership under these conditions? I have learned there are three guiding principles which are essential to growing coalitions of the willing:
- Practice listening leadership. Set your Azimuth (mission, intent, values, culture) as a team, where everyone participates in creating your roadmap of the way ahead. Model curiosity.
- Demonstrate empathy. Put yourself in others’ shoes. You’ll begin to understand them better, and they will better understand you.
- Make positivity your standard. People will be loyal followers and teammates because of who you are and what you represent, not because you have a title or position in the organization. Great leaders inspire others to excel by being positive, caring role models.
So, here’s your chance to develop a team of teams, by building and nurturing a coalition of the willing. Start today and stick with it. These three principles will serve you well – if they become your leadership habits.
Enjoy the journey!
 Abraham Maslow first introduced the Hierarchy of Needs theory in 1943. In the form of a pyramid, he defined the five basic human needs from bottom to top as Physiological, Safety and Security, Social, Esteem, and Self-Actualization.
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