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Leadership Thought #309 – It’s Not Supposed To Be So Hard

March 1, 2012

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I see far too many leaders who view their role as overly hard and a burden.  While there will certainly be moments of challenging work, leadership should not be excessively difficult and there should be many more moments where it feels easy, and you enjoy what you are doing.  If you are getting minimal joy from your work and increasingly believe the rewards aren’t worth the effort, then you are doing something wrong.  Of course, sometimes a situation isn’t salvageable but that is rare.  Often, you are making it harder than it should be.  The opportunity to lead others is a privilege and should be embraced accordingly.

I tell my clients that their goal should be to have their organization working like a Swiss watch and not dependent upon them to make the clock tick.  You don’t need to worry about your watch working.  It has done so accurately and consistently for years without any problems.  The mechanics are flawless.   When you hire the right people and put them in the right roles with the right direction using the right tools and following the right processes good things inevitably happen.   Little about business is rocket science.  Most of it is fundamental and straightforward.  People complicate things.  Leaders can be the biggest culprits in terms of inhibiting their own progress and success.

Although it’s not supposed to be overly hard, leadership is a learned skill.  You can’t just show up and make things happen based on your sheer force of will and work ethic (at least not for long).  You will quickly hit a plateau of what you are personally capable of making happen.  Long term growth and sustainable success is directly correlated to your ability to get the most out of other people and leverage their skills and capabilities.  Your job is to make proactive and sound financial decisions, guide and motivate your staff, and then hold them accountable for the results.  Employees need to wake up every day to see their own future and success properly aligned with the goals and culture of the organization.  They must also feel that their work fate is in the hands of capable decision makers who know what they should be doing.  It can’t just be you or a handful of people doing all the worrying and problem solving.  Success needs to be an organization-wide endeavor.

A trap I often see leaders fall into is valuing doing over thinking.  They get too caught up with task accomplishment.  If they aren’t doing something tangible, then something must be wrong.  It is certainly good to lead by example, but leaders are supposed to think, plan, organize, coach, and monitor results.  Other people in your organization should be focused on specific tasks and action items.  Once you grow beyond a few employees, it will quickly become apparent that you can’t do other people’s work for them or fill in the ever-emerging cracks of your inadequate leadership.  On-going crisis management, hyper-performance, and firefighting is for amateurs.  It also leads to less than stellar results, negative stress, and burnout.  If a leader isn’t having fun and enjoying his/her work, then the rest of the company will simply follow their lead and achieve related results.