Things don’t get easier as you progress. That’s because as you progress, you move up, and as you move up the skills required are more challenging. If things get easier you’ve likely plateaued or even slipped a bit.
Like most things in life, leadership doesn’t get easier. Leadership is necessary in all aspects of our life. Leadership is present in parenting, community, and it even impacts friendships. Being a humble and compassionate leader does not need to conflict with being a decisive, creative, and charismatic leader. That’s just one of the hard parts about leadership.
When examined, these hard parts aren’t so much a thing to do but a way of being that starts with a big dose of self-awareness. These hard parts listed below can be humbling, but incredibly impactful on everyone around you.
Accept there isn’t one answer (or one way) – It’s often easy to find an answer, an initial solution. We are conditioned to accept an answer that solves our problem or addresses our question. We often stop at this point. Why keep searching when we’ve solved the problem?
The hard part revolves around understanding that even if you’ve found a way to launch or to fix a problem, you’re just starting to scratch the surface of possibilities. Understanding and accepting that there’s always going to be dozens of answers to the questions and ways to fix a problem is what separates good leaders from great leaders. It’s easy to go with an answer that first solves the problem, it’s hard to admit that there are definitely more answers and more work ahead until the best one is found.
Dealing with unexpected outcomes – Making quick and efficient decisions is a fantastic skill. Having the reflexes of a goalie helps to keep things moving. However, even if you have the moves of Patrick Roy, you will lose if you hold onto your desired outcomes too tightly.
Having a vision of how you want things to turn out is OK, setting goals and targets is OK, but you can’t be attached to them. There’s a simple reason why. If Vegas put odds out against the likelihood of you being exactly right they’d be somewhere around 1,000:1. The reality is that we make decisions and from that decision comes an outcome and it’s rarely exactly what was expected. In fact, outcomes will often be totally unexpected.
The hard part is dealing with the unexpected outcomes if you have married yourself to a certain outcome already. It’s easier on you when you accept whatever outcome you find yourself in. Disappointment becomes a thing of the past because you simply move back into the decision making stage.
Steven Sisler of the Behavioural Resource Group explains, “Not every brain type excels with the challenge of dealing with unexpected outcomes. Those who are more emotionally flexible have a higher capacity to accept whatever circumstances they find themselves in.”
He continues, “Greater flexibility comes from a more intense anger emotion coupled with a very low intensity within the patience emotion. The patience emotion relies heavily on “safer” and more “secure” environments. This is known as Preserving. Individuals who sport a Preserving orientation believe that all good things can only be received from an outside source and will automatically come to those who wait. The source is supposed to be safe, expected, and deliberate; problems and challenges are avoided at any cost. Unexpected outcomes are far more disruptive to this way of thinking because the brain sees it as an intrusion on their “preservation” land. In other words, you need permission to do anything outside of a what is already expected when on protected land.”
In my experience, it’s easy to articulate: don’t hold onto what I believe the outcome is going to be. In practice it’s one of the hardest parts of leadership.
Being misunderstood – No one likes the feeling of being misunderstood, but the best of the best must be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time. The fact is that leadership involves a great deal of risk taking and thinking well into the future and not everyone is going to be comfortable with that. Simply put, there will be many who don’t understand your thinking. In fact there will be many who are opposed to your ideas. Being misunderstood slows down the weak while it empowers the brilliant.
Trust is the key to working quickly through misunderstanding. If people trust you, they’ll still support you. So in order to be effective and not always misunderstood, you need to build trust with everyone around you. This can start with simple things like always doing what you say you are going to do, having people’s back, and continually recognizing people for the small things. So, understand, and have no doubt, in order to make being misunderstood a little bit less hard on you, build trust each and every day.
I’ll be back next week with four more hard parts about leadership, in the meantime please feel free to leave a comment below.