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The Courage To Be Disliked

by Judy Ryan

“When we least expect it, life sets up a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
-Paulo Coelho, “The Devil and Miss Prym”

Iread a book called “The Courage To Be Disliked” on psychiatrist Alfred Adler, and I highly recommend it. We use Adler’s model, a major departure from what is held to be “common sense.”The author states that Adler is at least 100 years ahead of his time; I have always said the same. The title refers to the courage it takes to think outside of the fixed belief (and power) system that the majority operates from related to scarcity, fear and self-interest. Most people think and do what the herd does. And that “common sense” is the reason we are, and have been, in so much trouble.

Operating by freedom with responsibility rather than control

We have had centuries of using extrinsic motivators to get desired behavior from others — being autocratic and using incentives, praise, shaming and spoiling, all in an effort to create compliance. Freedom with responsibility requires first that we like people, that we are grateful for their power, acknowledge and celebrate it, draw upon their inherent good, help them clarify their purpose, and adopt behaviors that achieve it. This requires a favorable and optimistic view of them rather than one in which they are not trusted but are judged as selfish, lazy and worth less than others and must be frightened, praised, bribed and shamed subtly or overtly. This shift is no easy feat.

Understanding what it means to be an effective and life-giving authority
In my culture transformation process, people face their limiting and faulty beliefs about authority and learn who they can be best when they lead anyone (including children, co-workers or the boss, even if not a recognized “authority figure.”) What most people don’t realize is that if they want to be influential with anyone, they must uncover and resolve issues related to authority. We all carry more baggage about this than we know, and it’s crucial we come to new conclusions and behaviors concerning authority.

When nice is really mean
I often find leaders who are afraid of being autocratic (rightly so) but then use incentives, judgment, pampering and avoidance instead. They are afraid of being “mean” and think these choices are viable alternatives. They are not. In their efforts to be nice (usually a cover for playing it “safe”), they rob others of becoming empowered, lovable, connected and contributing — and they don’t see it.

A great example of this is in the 1962 movie “The Miracle Worker,” about Helen Keller (Patty Duke) and her new teacher, Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft). This movie is a dramatic example of how one loving family offered pity and permissiveness that kept Helen disempowered, unknown, unable to fully connect and contribute. What’s most important is the obvious courage within Annie Sullivan, who neither pities nor pampers nor sets out to hurt Helen but rather consistently demonstrates determination and a clear vision of the best outcome for her student despite inconvenience, attacks and challenges, remaining strong until breakthrough. If one watches this movie, one can see the courage it takes to not only choose a less traveled path but also stand up for one’s convictions despite often avid confrontations and criticisms that come with it.

More than ever, our world needs strong, intelligent and effective leadership within every person, beginning in early childhood. This requires that each of us pray and seek to be released from the need for love, acceptance and approval from others because effective leadership is still not often understood or welcome. And it is our future hope.

Judy Ryan (, human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!

Submitted 5 years 118 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
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