Month: March 2011

The burden of leadership

Leadership.  The brass ring.  The golden ticket.  What we all aspire to, right?   It does have its privileges.  But who was it that said that with great power comes great responsibility?  Boy, were they right. 

One of the most interesting lessons I see developing leaders learn is that leadership is not all about getting what you want.   In fact, they are astonished to realize how often they must focus on what others want.  Or, rather, what they need.   A leader’s challenge, gift and burden is to give others what they need in order to be effective, even when it’s not what the leader wants or needs. 

And, to take it a step further, to give people what they need even when it’s in conflict with what they want.  And that’s not easy.  Why squelch your own needs to meet others’ needs, when they don’t even appreciate it?!  Because sometimes that’s what it takes to get the job done and, perhaps more importantly, to help people become more than they are today. 

Don’t like “socializing”?  Too bad.  If sitting down with an employee to chit-chat for five minutes a day is what develops the relationship that allows that person to tell you what’s really going on with the project, or that they are interested in a promotion, it’s worth it.  If delegating some pieces of your own responsibility to a team member (even though you’d rather keep those) in order to develop their skills doesn’t sound like something you can do, you need to ask if you can be an effective leader.  If you won’t tell someone their performance is lagging, because it makes you too uncomfortable, leadership might not be for you. 

There’s a lot of good to be said about the benefits of leadership.  However, never forget the burden, and never shy away from it.