An Odd Secret About Leadership

A master’s student recently interviewed me for a paper he’s writing.  He is writing a case based on his experience as a head of a small private school and the leadership dilemmas he faced, and he wanted my take on what the antagonist in the case could have done differently. His passion for the paper and for the work he used to do is remarkable. He is a bright, caring, experienced, insightful person who – like so many people who gravitate to work they care about – was completely unprepared for the brutal realization that doing work that you find deeply meaningful can be agonizing in unexpected ways.

If you are tapped to lead because you are seen as being competent, caring about what you do and having a resilient work ethic, I congratulate you.  There are lists and guides for all the things you will need to do well as a leader: you must develop your business acumen, your interpersonal skills and your instinct for how to make projects work.  All of this will be valuable and it will feel exhilarating as your leadership skills grow and serve your goals.  You will work hard and persevere and put in the long hours and the effort and you will help build something that works and about which you feel proud.  

But there is a key element that that people who ask you to lead don’t tell you. They don’t tell you because not many people can name it.  The secret that that no one shares is that leadership, done well, can break your heart. It can break your heart because the humans you work with will disappoint you. Circumstances will change beyond your control. You will screw-up, make weird choices and you will disappoint others. If you keep true to the reasons you were chosen to lead in the first place – because you care and are competent and have a passion for what you do – you and your teams will recover and manage to thrive.

Leading people is fabulous and risky and sometimes heartbreaking. Know that. Accept it. And go and do it anyway. The risk of not leading, not trying will break your heart even more.

Share:

More Posts

Leap Year – 2024

It’s February 2024 – the month that contains the leap day in this leap year. Leap year is the scrappy little work-around that keeps our calendars in sync with the seasons and gives us 366 rather than 365 days in our trip around the sun. If the label holds true, this is a good time for taking leaps,

My Theme for This Year

Fruitfulness. January 10, 2024 How are you faring in this second week of January? Recovered from the holiday? Avoided flu-like symptoms? I hope you are happy, well-rested, and healthy as we start 2024. I’m not a huge fan of resolutions for a new year, but I do love a good theme. A theme can influence my

Returning to Work

“Returning” to Work

Topic of the Moment: Returning to Work Many organizations are currently in the midst of “return to work” planning. After a year of a pandemic-related workarounds,  people are brainstorming about how to, once again, share space with colleagues and become liberated from endless hours on Zoom.  While it’s wonderful that we can have these discussions (three cheers for

March Forth – 2021

My favorite day of the year, March 4th, is here again. It’s the date also an imperative command: March Forth! My approach this year is low-key because, as much as I love it, the date feels a little surreal. The last 52 weeks have wrung-out the collective psyche, and marching forth in a global pandemic

.




Which traits make you happiest & most effective?

Download your Character Compass and reconnect to the things that bring more satisfaction and joy to your work.

Scroll to Top