Leadership is hard… facing the facts & charting the course, it’s not all smooth sailing

…and if your are only looking for smooth sailing, you’re probably not leading.

For our northern hemisphere colleagues about to take to the sun and enjoy some obviously well-deserved downtime, we in the southern hemisphere are in the ‘bleak midwinter’, well, as bleak as beautiful Sydney can get. It’s halfway through the year and there are sniffs, tiredness and exhaustion. There are reports to write, parent meetings and sometimes a mid-year adjustment to staffing arrangements to be made. This is probably the time when leadership is at it’s most difficult.

Do you remember when you were given your leadership responsibility? There was probably excitement as you felt your capacity, attributes and potential had been recognised. At some point soon after reality began to sink in. You faced your first big decision and needed to take action, and somehow the gloss started to fall away.

Leadership is hard.

Perhaps you think that all you need to do as a leader is keep a steady ship, but just staying in calm waters means you aren’t actually going anywhere, just circling the paddling pool. Leaders take people somewhere. I’m not a boatie kind of person, but I do know, that if you are on the move you will face unknown and unfavourable conditions, storms and other unanticipated challenges. When you are taking your crew through this there is only one person they are looking to get them safely to the other side, and that’s you. That’s the reason you are still there. Leaders lead people. Then, when you get safely to your destination there is a great sense of achievement and excitement, and the loyalty that great leadership has built is invaluable .

The journey was worth it.

This week I was chatting this with a colleague who is navigating through a range of issues with her team, to meet deadlines and generally rally the troops. It reminded me of a particular situation I was in a few years ago, when I had  the same sense of exhaustion and almost felt defeated by the decisions I had to make and conversations I needed to have.

At the time I heard Craig Groeschel at a conference talk about “the leader’s constant companion”. He had my attention as I contemplated what this companion may have been, and then he gave the answer, “is pain”.

The leader’s constant companion is pain.

It all made sense and I felt somewhat liberated. Why is there pain? Because leadership is about people, making decisions for their good and making decisions for the good of the cause. Either way it impacts people and people can be hurt. Great leaders feel pain when they are sold out to the cause, the mission and vision. They are prepared to make the tough decisions and have the difficult conversations. Deep down we know that if we just let it roll, it’s much harder to pull back, action is needed.

So I shared my revelation with my colleague and reassured her that this is exactly what leadership is about. We make decisions and people choose their reactions. She understood that the reason she is in the leadership position is because of the same capacity, attributes and potential she had shown earlier are exactly what’s required now.

There is much written about the attributes of a great leader, the laws of leadership and even the levels of leadership – but the reality is, that at the heart of it all, leadership requires:

1. Embracing the big picture, the destination, the cause

2. Knowing the way to go and taking people there

3. Being courageous to have the tough conversations and make the big decisions for the greater good.

So leaders, if from -time-to-time it’s not hard, messy, challenging and stretching then perhaps you may need to check and see if you are actually taking your people somewhere, or just circling the paddling pool.

@anneknock

PS… I will write about the cheery side of leadership, promise.

One thought on “Leadership is hard… facing the facts & charting the course, it’s not all smooth sailing

  1. What an outstanding article! So often as leaders all we hear about from others in our profession is how wonderful the life of an instructional leader can be. While what we do is certainly rewarding, rarely does a week go by (for me anyway) that doesn’t involve some measure / degree of pain. Your observations that the pain leaders deal with usually involves a people component is SO true in our line of work. It’s nice to see someone else write about similar struggles; your words were very validating – thank you.

    @mthompsontweets
    Iowa, USA

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