oppositional influence

Europe and Britain were shaken this week by the Brexit vote. The populous movement was influenced by those who said Britain was being held back by the EU, which they said imposed too many rules on business and charged billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also wanted Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people going to Britain to live and/or work. Post vote, several pundits have noted that there is not as strong of a “what now” plan in place. Voter’s polled even shared sentiments that they were voting against the EU and what it required more so than for the policies that would replace the EU.

British Tory minister Soubry had a conversation with a reporter, and she made this statement about the aftermath of the Brexit vote:

[The reporter asks,] “When would you like to see the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which begins the exit process – it’s a two-year process but the clock ticks when you press that button. When?”

She hesitantly responds stating that she "doesn’t know" the answer to that question and that it would be "silly" of her to say that she does before saying that there is "no plan" going forward. 

In America, Trump is leading a similar populous movement against the status quo. Many of Trump’s supporters are frustrated and mad at the existing power of the parties. While Trump has expressed his dislikes in strong terms, for much of his campaign critics have accused Trump of having no real policies other than what he is against.

An article in The Hill (June 2016) quotes Trump:

My voters “don’t care” that [I] don’t give out many policy specifics on what [I] plan to do if elected.

In an interview with Time magazine, Trump said that he doesn’t need to release a detailed proposal the way Hillary Clinton does because his supporters trust him to be an effective executive.

“My voters don’t care and the public doesn’t care,” Trump said. “They know you’re going to do a good job once you’re there.”

History is filled with these “only against” or oppositional influencers. At times the oppositional influencers hide their true wishes behind the veil of what they vehemently oppose.

Enter Pol Pot. During the Cambodian revolution, he recruited many of the poorest peasants not to the promise of communist utopia, but only against the right wing Prime Minister Lon Nol. It was only after he gained power that he revealed his version of communism, which was one of the most brutal and repressive regimes ever to govern the earth.

What Can We Learn About Healthy Oppositional Influence?

There is a healthy role for someone who finds themselves an oppositional influence. First, it should be noted that when we find ourselves in oppositional influence, we are not innately oppositional influencers, or there is a deeper issue present as we will see below.

The role of oppositional influence is to bring the current powers that be to a place of accountability. In this way, oppositional influence does serve a key purpose. They are the back tension, questioning the validity of ideas and policies. Without oppositional influence, we might march unknowingly to our demise.

Unhealthy Oppositional Influence

Some influencers aren’t for forward success of the organization. They actually gain a rush off of opposition for opposition’s sake. Some might have what psychiatrists deem oppositional defiance disorder. Early environmental factors can seed this, including a lack of parental discipline, child abuse or neglect, family instability and other factors. An opposition for opposition’s sake only influencer must be removed from the organization if possible. They are arbiters of unhealthy disunity on a team.

If you Face Oppositional Influence

Celebrate oppositional influence as long as you are assured the oppositional leader has the best intent for the organization. You must work to ascertain whether the oppositional leader is for the organization’s success more than his or her own gain.

More clearly articulate your positions and answer their objections in a straightforward manner. 

Resist the tendency to use ad hominem attacks against your opposition. Instead, keep the dialogue at a policy level.

Call the oppositional influence to articulate their own policy and solutions.

If you are the Oppositional Influencer

You need to be developing policies on what you are for, and not just against, that can be placed into action in case your view/position actually wins.

Demand accountability, but when the main power has a good idea or solution, don’t deny it merely because the main power is its author. Denying any policy they promote only makes you look polemical, not solution-oriented.

Resist the tendency to use ad hominem attacks against your opposition. Instead, keep the dialogue at a policy level.

Going Forward

In the coming days, it will be interesting to watch the oppositional influencers who won the Brexit vote become the main power, and those who were in power become the oppositional party. This shift in roles often is fraught with tension, and the realization that the previously oppositional influencer has no plan forward or that the plan forward is ideological but not pragmatic. A chief historical effort is the reconstruction effort after the American Civil War.

At other times, the oppositional influencer gains power and things do improve. South Africa and its leadership under Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu provide us a picture of one of the better transitions in history. Why? Because Mandela and Tutu were more for their nation’s success than they were for exactly revenge on their former oppressors.

Our lesson: Make sure you are for something, even if you find yourself in opposition to the status quo.



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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina