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Articles by Dr. Vern Minor

Resistance is Not Futile!

Dr. Vern Minor
Director of Educational leadership

To cite this article: Minor, V. Resistance is Not Futile! San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #55. www.KaganOnline.com

I have often told leaders that it is important to be transparent with others. So, in keeping with what I proclaim to be important, I am going to model transparency for you by revealing the sci-fi nerd side of myself. For those of you who are Trekkies, you will recognize the statement, "Resistance is futile." This declaration is uttered by the Borg any time they encounter an alien race in the Star Trek series. (I told you I was revealing my nerd side.) The statement has since entered popular culture as a way of declaring that opposition to a given change is pointless. In other words, there is no sense in refusing what is about to transpire; one might as well surrender.

Over the last three decades I have witnessed far too many leaders who have communicated to their staff at the onset of a change initiative, "Resistance is futile!" Such leaders squelch dialogue, devalue the ideas of others, and impose their will on staff. These leaders characterize anyone who does not wholeheartedly embrace their points of view as being resisters, naysayers, cynics, or pessimists. I would contend that any leader who approaches change using this type of tactic is doomed to failure. Not only should resistance be expected in change, but it also should be welcomed.

Not only should resistance be expected in change, but it also should be welcomed.

Before expanding on this idea, let's take a moment to address why resistance exists in the first place. The tendency for some in leadership is to place the blame for resistance on those we lead. I would contend, however, that much resistance can actually be attributed to leaders. It is possible—in fact, probable—that many leaders have inadvertently fostered resistance to change themselves while trying to create a positive impact.

A brief history lesson is in order. When I entered the teaching profession 35 years ago, teachers had total autonomy in the classroom. We decided what to teach, how to manage students, what resources to use, how to teach concepts, and what assessments to administer. There were no district curriculum standards, no state assessments, and no professional learning teams. Teachers were autonomous beings. In fact, there was very little in the way of professional development, and the availability of research to guide decision making was basically non-existent.

What has transpired over the last three decades during an age of educational reform has been an explosion of research on what positively impacts learning. As leaders gained new insights through the years, they introduced numerous strategies and programs to their faculty. New initiatives were followed by newer initiatives every couple of years as research produced greater clarity about what works best with children. Before long, leaders had created a cycle of continually changing direction every two or three years. The intent was honorable—to improve teaching and learning. However, the repeated introduction of initiative after initiative over a period of years created in many staff members a reluctance to embrace change. Do you know why many staff members have adopted an attitude of "this too shall pass"? Because "this too does pass".

Having a subsection of our staff who force us to examine an issue from a perspective different from our own is healthy to decision making.

I am not trying to place blame; ignoring valid research the last quarter of a century would have been grossly unprincipled. What must be grasped is that resistance is merely a by-product of living in an age of reform. Rather than trying to find fault, leaders simply need to accept that resistance exists; furthermore, leaders must realize that resistance need not be negative. If I recall correctly, it was Michael Fullan who once proclaimed, "Never demonize resisters." He is absolutely correct. Having a subsection of our staff who force us to examine an issue from a perspective different from our own is healthy to decision making. Granted, it can be argued that too much resistance is negative; on the other hand, it can also be argued that groupthink is equally counterproductive. The truth is that resisters often times have very legitimate reasons for not readily supporting a change. As leaders, we owe it to our staff and to ourselves to explore resisters' issues, questions, and concerns. Doing so better ensures that we go in a direction that will produce widespread adoption and support.

Resistance is futile? Quite the contrary! Resistance, when understood and handled correctly by leaders, can be valuable. I would urge you to err on the side of believing the best of those who voice opposition to change. Recognize the impact a flood of research has had on educators. Massive numbers of programs, strategies, and reforms have been introduced to educators in such a short time frame, and this inundation has overwhelmed many teachers in the field. Learn to value staff members who challenge us to think deeply about proposed changes. In the end your influence as a leader will be more impactful and long lasting.

Live long and prosper!