Reinterpreting Confrontation in Support of Transformational Leadership

From Aline, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dear Dr. Rosie,

I’m always amazed at what you bring to your column. You touch the heart and soul of who we are under all the layers of doing what we do, in our lives and in our work.

For eight years I’ve been a director for a medium sized company. I see so much more potential for the company and for the people who work here. I want to practice being more authentic and present with my direct reports. I want to leave them with dignity. I want to practice being open, engaged and to communicate in ways that support people and the company to orient itself towards creating an environment that empowers our human resource as opposed to depleting and degrading it. But I’m afraid I’ll come across as weak, vulnerable and will lack leadership.

I’d appreciate anything you can share.

Thanks again,


From Dr. Rosie

Dear Aline,

I so admire your willingness to step into your convictions to potentially transform your company. Engaging individuals with authenticity and presence can provide some pretty interesting possibilities “ ones you cannot plan for or anticipate. They will challenge you to be true to yourself, to your integrity and to what it is you are wanting “ to create a work environment that is honoring to your human resource. I acknowledge your heart-felt passion to make a difference “ enough to perhaps face some aspects of yourself that may fear to tread where others have yet to go.

I so appreciate your commitment to cultivating more awareness around this aspect of your company’s culture and the humanity that runs the company. Get comfortable with being confronted because you already are being confronted. With every new experience comes the possibility to become conscious and develop new skills in yourself and your organization. It’s what you are asking of your direct reports and it’s what I’m asking of you.

I like your willingness to explore what it is that stops you, what confronts you. By confronting I mean something other than fights and arguments, though these are possible too. I’m talking to that experience within you, when in the midst of an action that is in alignment with this intention to empower, something stops you. Your direct report says something or a thought crosses your mind, and all of a sudden you experience an abrupt change of direction in the conversation, like putting your engine in reverse to avoid going over an abyss.

The thoughts that arose reflect some interpretations you have about that which just surfaced. It brings up those core truths that we don’t want anyone to find out or decide about us. Our survival mechanisms kick into gear and we’ve left our best intentions in the dust.

What is it, Aline that you usually do when you are confronted? What is your normal come-from or be-with when the going gets tough? And, how are you being that is in support of your intention to be effective as a transformational director and leader? It is important to cultivate awareness around what you do and how you be when confronted. The reason is that, if what you do when confronted is get angry and controlling; retreat or resist, withdraw or withhold, then in any conversation, with any one, actually, you’ll be avoiding the very instant that creates a shift, a change, or transformation.

What’s required in these very moments is a stretching beyond the limitations of fear-based intentions and thoughts into a conversation that is a dream come true. I’m not kidding. These moments, these conversations, where you stay true to your intention to make a difference, are exhilarating. They can be the most fulfilling, rewarding and effective moments of your day. You accomplished what you set out to do. That’s transformation in action.

For most of us, our context around confrontation has it be scary, anxiety provoking, maybe even dangerous. If your context around confrontation is not positive you’ll not only let yourself off the hook but you’ll let your company and people off the hook too, when they are confronted. This doesn’t serve anyone!

As an executive and leadership coach I had to shift my own interpretations about confrontation if I were to be of any real support and value to my clients. Now, confrontations are conversations that have the capacity to deepen understanding and deepen relationships. My client may react to me in ways that I don’t like, but I don’t have to give into my fears, my anxiety and those strategies that say "Run, Rosie, Run! By staying intentional with my desire to stay authentic and be honoring and respectful of everyone, I allow an opening to a new way of being. This new way of being feels strong, grounded and very intentional. I’m far more present to what my client needs from me as a thinking partner. That’s what I’m getting paid for; nothing less!

In your writing Aline, you are clear about your intention to shift your way of being as a leader and director. In a situation that feels confronting your intentions can shift to avoiding the whole darn, situation. Without being clear of your intention to lead and direct from a more authentic and honoring position, you will not develop the capacity to be with your company and its employees in ways that best serves them. Without cultivating awareness you will stay unwilling to think outside your current comfort zone and that of your company. Without presence you will not be attending to your direct reports or to your inner voices that support you in being empowering in ways you’ve yet to dream of; and, without intentional listening and speaking you won’t be able to facilitate a dialog with them that supports and encourages stretching themselves into their fullest potential.

I believe the best leaders are those who, when confronted, can remember their deepest intention to lead with the wholeness of their heart and mind toward the fulfillment of the greatest potential of those they serve. I see you, Aline as one of these leaders. Thank you for exercising the muscles of transformational leadership.


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