Dr. Sarah Eaton

Professor, Author and Researcher

Dr. Sarah Eaton - Professor, Author and Researcher

9 Things You Can Do When Leadership Styles Clash

Tonight I was reminded (yet again) that differences in leadership style can cause friction in a relationship. This is true whether that relationship is at work, at school, or at home.

Imagine this scenario: Two leaders are arguing about how to do something. They disagree based on their approach to the situation. They both believe they are right.

Leader profile #1: Project manager at a national corporation; Gets along with just about everyone; Laid back; Believes that rules are important, but not when they are just downright stupid; thinks everyone should play by the same rules and that equality is important.

Leader profile #2: Small business owner, educator, PhD in Leadership; Relentless about “leading by example”; Believes in “equitable, not equal” leadership; High achieving and not particularly laid back. (Oh yes, and she writes a blog called “Literacy, Languages and Leadership”, too.)


Me: You need to put this parking tag in your vehicle.

Leader #1: Why? It’s your spot and you’ve rented it.

Me: Yes, but you need the tag.

Leader #1: That’s just dumb. Everyone knows you. They know it’s your spot. It’s dark out and I’m tired. I don’t feel like going out to the car again. Just leave it. It’ll be fine.

Me: No, it won’t. I’m on the board of this community and we agree that we need the parking tags. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system. I’m saying that you need the tag in your car, particularly because I’m on the board and we can’t ask others to use tags if we, as board members, don’t do it ourselves.

Leader #1: But I’m not on the board.

Me: No, but the parking spot belongs to me and I’m on the board. Please put the tag in the car.

Reluctantly Leader #1 (who happens to be my other half, and the parking spot in question is in the complex where we live), trudged out to the car and displayed the tag.

This happens all the time. We are two strong, good people, with very different approaches. The same thing can happen at work or at school.

Here’s what to do:

1. Talk about it. Let each person explain their point of view and justify their stance.

2. Remain calm. Avoid yelling, screaming and name-calling.

3. Focus on the problem, not the person. Just because you don’t like the other person’s leadership style, doesn’t mean you have the right to be nasty. As my friend, Lisa Chell, says, words are powerful tools in relationships.

4. Pick your battles. Decide when it is worth fighting to the bitter end and when it is OK to give in.

5. Give in sometimes.. and stand your ground when you need to. In this case, the other person conceded the point. Sometimes, I’m the one to make a concession.

6. Acknowledge the other person’s efforts to communicate with you. If the other person gives you the space to express yourself, listens and works with you to find an agreement, then acknowledge that. It takes more effort and self-control to do that than it does to fly off the handle in a rage.

7. Be prepared to act. If the other person digs in their heels, and you don’t want to deal with the repercussions, then be prepared to do some things yourself. This should be the exception to the rule though, not a modus operandi.

8. Acknowledge that your differences may be due to individual styles or approaches. Usually, there is more than one way to solve a problem. The amount of risk involved in each option may be different. Some people have a lower tolerance for risk than others. By acknowledging that often there is no single “right” way, conflicts are minimized.

9. Work together as much as possible. Ask questions like, “What can we do to figure this out in a way that makes sense for both of us?” By focussing on solving the problem using a teamwork approach, you take the focus off the problem and put it on the solution. By doing so, conflict transforms into collaboration.

These are not foolproof suggestions and I can’t guarantee they’ll work 100% of the time. What I can say is that I’ve used these techniques at home and at work and often the result is even better than I expected.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.

Effective Learning Strategy: Get to Know Your Profs

As part of my Effective Learning course at the University of Calgary, I prepared this 3-page success strategy for university students to help them understand the importance of getting to know their instructors.

My students reported that it helped them think of their profs as “real people”. Some of them said it had never occurred to them that their professors were once where they were (!)

Feel free to share this with your own students or university-age children.

Read the full version or download a copy:

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Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.

How I built a loyal, engaged Twitter following

Sarah Eaton TwitterThere’s a myth about Twitter followers. You don’t need more followers. You want more engaged followers.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2009. I spent probably 9 months figuring out what it was all about and how to use it. Then, I started looking at other people’s followings and wondering how they did it. That’s when I learned that some people literally buy followers, by paying into a service. Everyone who pays into the service follows each other. That inflates your following. But to me, those kinds of followers don’t mean anything. And I didn’t want them.

I wanted engaged followers: people who would have online conversations with me, retweet my Tweets, read my posts, make comments, offer suggestions. I wanted to interact with my followers.

I began making a conscious effort to increase my engagement levels and reciprocity.

Here’s how I did that:

  1. I used a service that allowed me to schedule my Tweets and included a dashboard so I could monitor conversations. I use Hootsuite, but there are other ones out there, too.
  2. Be consistent. I Tweet every day. Even if I’m in meetings all day, I still Tweet.
  3. Selective and strategic sharing. I make a point to share resources that I think others will enjoy and find useful.
  4. Regular retweeting. I repost interesting Tweets and give others credit for them.
  5. Original posts. I share my own material on a regular basis — but not too often.
  6. Watch your ratios. It can’t be a constant stream of output. You need to balance your output and asks with responses, acknowledgements and retrweets. Don’t expect others to share your stuff if you don’t share and acknowledge theirs.
  7. Have conversations. I engage with others in conversations about what is important to them.
  8. Block and report spammers. I nip these folks in the bud. I have no problem reporting spammers and neither should you.
  9. Follow back selectively. I don’t follow everyone who follows me. I follow people and organizations who seem to have legitimate profiles on topics I’m interested in.
  10. Vary the Tweet topics – within a selected range. I Tweet about a lot of stuff, mostly to do with education, training, literacy and social media.
  11. Acknowledge and appreciate your Tweeps. They don’t have to follow you, retweet your stuff or give you a shoutout, you know. Showing appreciation helps build good digital relationships.
  12. Random acts of kindness. Promote a good cause. Mention a friend’s business. Give someone you don’t know a public compliment or shoutout.

As a result of these strategies, here’s what has happened:

  1. I’ve connected with people in real life. We go for coffee. We share ideas and laugh.
  2. I get retweeted every day… sometimes up to 20 or 30 times per day. This leads me to new people. If I think they’re interesting. I follow them. Sometimes, they follow me back.
  3. I’ve been offered work. Tweeps have contacted me to ask me to present at conferences and take on projects. Never was I more surprised than when I was offered a contract to build an evaluation system for an educational organization via a connection that originated on Twitter.
  4. I’ve learned tons. I check out new resources and share them freely. In the process, I stay on top of what is happening in my field. I’m current and up to date. Must of it is thanks so Twitter and social media.
  5. My understanding of social media has deepened considerably. Social media changes quickly, but for those who are new to it or still working to really understand what it is and how it can work for them, it is important to know that there are some fundamentals. One of those is that building an engaged following is much more important than just building a following.

If you liked this post, you’d probably like my Tweets, too. Let’s connect on Twitter.


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Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.