We largely agree with an article at Inc. entitled “The Brutal Truth About Why Being a Leader is So Hard” except for 2 things. First is the title itself. The truth about leadership being hard isn’t all that brutal. Difficult at times? Yes. Brutal? No.
Additionally, being a leader isn’t hard. Being an effective leader can be – although we needlessly make it harder than it has to be (more about this later).
Let’s get real
Second, one bold header paragraph reads as follows:
“True leadership is the ability to communicate with and effectively reach each and every person you work with, in the way that works best for each of them.”
If you have a very small organization or business, you can accomplish this. But we, as human beings, are extremely diverse. Even though we often try to categorize or stereotype individuals into labeled groups, the individuals in a common group are still very unique individuals.
That diversity is not just a good thing. It’s a GREAT thing – for business and society. When respected and nurtured, it results in an environment or culture that is far more creative and apt to foresee and avoid problems before they arise, or solve them quickly when they do. It brings about peace and opportunity.
But as an organization grows in size, that very diversity makes it impossible to “reach every person you work with in the way that works best for each of them.” There has never been a leader in the history of leaders that has been able to do that – and there have been a lot of great leaders in the history of leaders.
The key is to lead in a way that stays true to the leader you want to be, while being the most effective kind of leader that the organization/team needs and that best reaches the majority of the individuals.
The real brutal truth about being a leader
Some will fall out. The rest will fall in. The brutal truth is really just that – you cannot reach each and every person you work with, in the way that works best for each of them. Not in a large organization you can’t. You will feel bad about those who fall out. It might feel brutal. But you’ll feel worse about letting down a majority because you tried to be everything to everyone.
That said, again, we do largely agree with the points made in the article, including that the following is a good list of what great leadership entails:
- It’s the ability to be flexible.
- When everyone else is stressed, you’re calm.
- When everyone else is out of gas, you inject more fuel.
- When everyone else doesn’t know what to do next, you lead by example.
- When someone has an issue, you work with and listen to the person on a personal level.
Natural versus practiced art
The items on that list can be hard if behaving that way does not come natural to you.
Some people have a natural calm about them. Case in point, the “man in the red hat”, recognized for his heroic leadership during the tragic and senseless massacre in Las Vegas. Listen to the story, hear his response to it, and you will see he just has that natural instinct to remain calm and lead while others understandably panic.
For others, it is a practiced art. Another case in point from that same tragedy is the military veteran who “stole” a truck to transport as many injured victims as he could to the hospital and out of harm’s way. His military training to remain calm under fire kicked in and allowed him to do something brilliant and life saving that most of us would have never considered.
If remaining calm under pressure does not come naturally, it has to be practiced until it becomes a habit. Until then, it is a conscious behavioral response.
We make it harder than we have to
And to that point, we needlessly make it harder than we have to. Here is list of a few simple things you can employ that will make it less difficult.
- Define goals and measurable objectives that help keep you focused on the big picture and sweat less about the little things
- Have a plan (strategic and tactical) for accomplishing those goals and objectives
- Conduct a risk assessment and devise a risk mitigation plan to avoid problems or minimize their impact when they occur
- When reporting results, challenges, status, etc. insist on everyone presenting 3 good things and 3 not-so-good things, creating a culture where no one is allowed to only complain, and no one is allowed to only paint the rosey picture – this is where practicing calmness really pays off.