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“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

Say you’re collaborating with a colleague on a project for work. It’s a really important project and has the potential to get you promoted. But, that colleague of yours? She disagrees with your point of view and is not willing to see the other side. So, you harp on the situation by repeatedly explaining your point of view. Why can’t she see it your way? Isn’t it obvious that this is the way things should be?

My guess is that your colleague is not only finding your behavior irritating, but it’s likely you are being perceived as inappropriate. Being pushy and domineering isn’t exactly the most effective leadership style. After all, the main goal is to come to a mutual understanding when collaborating on a project, right?

Think of the last time you encountered someone with a political or social view that was unlike your own. Did you change their mind? Did they change yours?  What are you supposed to do when you find yourself in this situation? Isn’t it so frustrating that the other person just doesn’t get it? Running and hiding might feel like the easiest thing to do, but this is where invitational leadership comes in.

It’s a handy skill you may not have heard of, but it is an important, useful tool to engage in the workplace, in the classroom, or even with friends over dinner. The key to invitational leadership is to encourage yourself and others to explore many different sides of an issue. It’s about creating an environment that is free of judgment and full of space for people to utilize their own agency. Trust is a key component here.

You may have experienced invitational leadership during a classroom debate. Perhaps the teacher served as a moderator between two sides of an issue, asking difficult questions to gain a deeper understanding of the issue. Invitational leadership can be used in the classroom and the boardroom alike.

Invitational leadership is in the details. It comes in the form of using neutral language or consistently doing activities that build trust amongst coworkers. Accessible idea sharing (i.e. an inviting office environment that encourages impromptu brainstorming) and an open communication flow (i.e. leaving your office door open as opposed to closed every so often) are small details that communicate an inviting, encouraging environment.

The next time you find yourself watching a disagreeable program, overhearing a colleague with a different point of view, or just aren’t sure which way is best, approach the situation with an invitational leadership lens. We can all stand to learn a thing or two… and becoming more patient with a colleague might be a nice bonus.

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