The Leadership Blog

Stop Waiting for Easy: Accept the Hard

accountability advice courageous leadership leadership advice problem solving Mar 24, 2024

Here’s a newsflash, “being a leader is hard.”  Ok, you probably already knew that.  Leadership is often romanticized as a journey of triumphs and successes, but seasoned leaders know that the reality is far more nuanced. Leading is fraught with challenges, uncertainties, and tough decisions. Yet, it's precisely in facing these difficulties head-on that true leadership emerges. To help leaders navigate the complexities of their roles, let's explore my STOP analogy, sourced from the wisdom of renowned leaders, as a guide to embracing the inherent difficulties of leadership and offer my leadership friends like YOU a little support.  Imagine this as a virtual hug.

S: Seek Feedback and Learn Continuously

Great leaders understand the value of feedback and continuous learning. As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, famously said, "We are stubborn on vision but flexible on details." Embrace feedback from your team, peers, and mentors. Learn from your mistakes and failures and adapt your approach accordingly. A growth mindset is key to overcoming obstacles and evolving as a leader.

Now that sounds all well and good but how do we handle those "know-it-all" staff that can be a challenging aspect of leadership.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  Those who have all the answers without any of the details like how much their ideas are going to cost or how many people it would actually take to implement their idea or just how their idea might prevent an organization from moving forward in other areas. One of my CEO friends shared her brilliant idea with me last week for handling these folks.  She said she let team members role play that they were CEO for a day, and they got to see first-hand how leading wasn’t as easy as they thought.  Here are some more strategies to effectively manage these situations. First, it's essential to foster open communication and establish a culture of collaboration where all voices are valued. Encourage humility and a willingness to learn from each other, emphasizing that no one has a monopoly on knowledge. Additionally, provide constructive feedback and gently remind know-it-all staff members of the importance of listening and considering others' perspectives. Lead by example, demonstrating curiosity and openness to new ideas, which can inspire your team to do the same. Finally, address any disruptive behavior promptly and privately, focusing on solutions rather than blame. By approaching these situations with empathy, patience, and assertiveness, leaders can cultivate a more harmonious and productive work environment for everyone.

T: Take Ownership and Responsibility

Effective leaders take ownership of their decisions and actions. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility, stating, "Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good." Own up to your mistakes, acknowledge when things go wrong, and take proactive steps to rectify them. By demonstrating accountability, you inspire trust and confidence among your team.

O: Optimize Your Resources

Leadership often requires making the most of limited resources—whether it's time, budget, or manpower. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, exemplifies this mindset, stating, "Any product that needs a manual to work is broken." Strive for simplicity and efficiency in your processes and workflows. Focus on maximizing the impact of your resources, leveraging technology and innovation where possible. I’ve fallen in love with ChatGPT.  I use it to write fundraising letters, social media posts, memos to staff and articles for annual reports.  I’m all about being efficient.  By optimizing resources, you empower your team to achieve more with less.

P: Persist and Persevere

This one’s, my favorite.  Leading is not for the faint of heart—it requires resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. As Angela Merkel, former Chancellor of Germany, once remarked, "When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises." Stay true to your values and principles, even when the going gets tough. Keep pushing forward, rallying your team and stakeholders behind a shared vision. Remember that every setback is an opportunity for growth and refinement.

I wrap up today’s post with a reminder. I'm sure you know ALL TO WELL, leadership is a journey marked by challenges and obstacles, but it's also a path of growth, learning, and fulfillment. By embracing the STOP analogy—Seeking feedback with continuous learning, Taking ownership, Optimizing resources, and Persisting in the face of adversity—leaders can navigate the complexities of our roles with courage and resilience. As Winston Churchill famously said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts." So, don't wait for leadership to be easy—embrace the challenges, and lead with purpose and conviction.  We all need to accept that it’s hard.  My grandfather taught me, when I was very young, that anything worth doing in life was going to be hard.  I just need to accept it.  That lesson continues to serve me well.