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Karin’s Leadership Articles

5 Reasons to Lose a Battle- And How To Lose It With Grace

by | Jul 14, 2014 | Authenticity & Transparency, By Karin Hurt, Communication |

If I had to pick a side, I would have chosen hers. But picking sides was entirely beside the point.

The other guy’s heels were dug in deeper than skis sunk in a tree well of deep powder. No amount of convincing was going to change his mind. “It’s time to let it go.” I offered. “This battle is not worth winning.

“But I’m right, she insisted.”

That’s entirely possible. But the battle was weakening the relationship, and was making the project much less fun. When projects feel hard, they seldom blossom with creativity which is what we needed most. Plus the wasted energy was exhausting all of us.

Should the other, older and theoretically more mature guy have been the one to succumb? Perhaps. But he didn’t. Age isn’t necessarily a leadership competency.

And so I offer our collective wisdom from the scar tissue from this battle. I’m book marking this page as a reminder to myself as well. Battle losing is never handled.

5 Reasons to Lose a Battle

1. To maintain your dignity.

This may sound counterintuitive, but trust me, no one shows up at their very best when they’re spitting teeth mad. Even the ugly words that you’re saying on the inside ooze toxins from your pores.

2. To enhance your reputation

Others are watching how you handle the small battles. People respect (and look to follow) leaders who get the big picture and focus on the end game over minor irritations and disagreements.

3. To win the war

Getting mired down in the debate over the small stuff will drain the energy for what matters most.

4. You might be wrong

Just saying.

5. To preserve the relationship.

In long-term collaborations it’s almost always true that it’s more important to preserve the relationship rather than win on some minor point. Even if you’re majorly ticked off, consider the satellite relationships that are impacted by your disagreement.

How To Decide If a Battle’s Worth Losing

Members of our online community weighed in with some initial advice. I hope you’ll add yours.

Carey Green:

I find a simple question is helpful at times like this. ” Will my insistence on being right benefit or bless this person or advance our cause?” 

David Dye:

The phrase I use is “Do you want to be effective…or “right”?” As a leader, your team exists to achieve results. That, and the leaders you leave behind you, are the measures of success. More of than not, insistence on being ‘right’ prevents you from achieving either of those outcomes.

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Steve Borek

    Proving someone wrong or myself right rarely develops into anything that’s good.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, agreed.

  2. Tarek Taha

    When someone is well invested in their point of view, their desire to “win” can supersede any logic you may throw at them. There is no upside to creating an enemy. It’s better to back off and wait for another opportunity.

    • Karin Hurt

      Tarek, That’s a great point. It’s very hard to overcome emotionally charged thinking.

  3. Bill Benoist

    For me, I can always walk away from a battle if it’s not in violation of my core principles.

    • Karin Hurt

      Bill, Excellent add. Thanks!

  4. Terri Klass

    Instead of looking at “winning battles” I always try to resolve a difference by integrating the opposing views into something more acceptable for both people.

    I will never waste too much time on little wins as they add don’t usually add up to landing a big success. Keeping perspective and putting the relationship ahead of being right will benefit any leader.

    Thanks Karin for making me think about why I may not want to win! Great post!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Thanks so much. Finding a different approach is a great one. I would so agree focusing on the little wins seldom leads to big picture success.

  5. LaRae Quy

    Great article, Karin!

    It’s a hard one to answer with honesty, but I always ask myself how much my ego is invested in winning the battle. The answer is usually: always! Like many others, I couch my concern around words that express things such “this is the right thing to do.” But really, it’s also about saving face and wanting to BE RIGHT…so I have compromised with my husband: when we go to a hotel or are on vacation, he always lets me take the towels to the right…because I am always right 🙂

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, LOL I love the story with your husband! I could use some marriage tips from you. My husband’s not there yet 😉

  6. Jeff

    I try to reflect on a blessing I have in my work life that others often don’t: As an independent consultant I am often asked to come in to an organization and help figure out what’s working and what’s not working. I get listened to a lot. I get told, “You’re right” a bit too often. Bluntly, I am often compensated for saying the same things many internal people have been saying for months (years?) about what needs to be fixed and how to fix it. Sometimes it’s embarrassing almost.

    With that long preface, I try to make sure the people who have been saying all along what I am about to say, get the credit for their creative thinking. I might say, “You know, you’re right. I was thinking something along those lines too, but I think you said it more clearly.” And I really mean it. I am glad if I can help facilitate a conversation where the internal people, who have often been ignored, get to speak up and be right, because they are right.

    Frankly, the executives who brought me in still give me way too much credit for ‘helping’ them (and give themselves way too much credit for bringing in a consultant at ‘just the right time’). But, of course, I also get more of the blame when my consultation doesn’t bring the results we all hoped for and expected. That’s just the life of a consultant, right?

    So my not having to BE right means someone else gets to be. And they likely need it more than I do. I am perceived as ‘right’ all too often. I don’t need it or want it that much any more.

    If I am doing my job, I am just bringing out the ‘right thinking’ of others in a facilitated and coordinated way that helps their solution(s) to light. I leave, and they get to stay – maybe a little more respected for their expertise than before, if I’ve done my job right.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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