The 13 Toughest Challenges of Leadership
Indifference is easy, but empty.
Compassion requires more courage, resolve, and wisdom than standing aloof.
Every tough challenge of leadership is made better with compassion.
The 13 toughest challenges of leadership:
- Expecting results.
- Rejecting excuses.
- Expecting people to do things they haven’t done before.
- Holding people accountable to their talent and aspirations.
- Helping others to become greater than yourself.
- Addressing topics others would like to sweep under the carpet.
- Building trust when you feel others should extend it because of your position.
- Addressing conflict and solving problems.
- Delegating authority while maintaining responsibility.
- Deciding to intervene or letting things play out.
- Spending personal leadership collateral on people who don’t get it.
The challenges you face are no excuse to close your heart.
Bob Sutton writes in, The No Asshole Rule, that the average worker has about a 50% chance of working for an asshole boss.
Compassion solves issues caused by assholery.
The first secret of compassion:
Compassion requires boundaries.
An inability to set boundaries encourages indifference. I’ve withheld compassion because I felt I couldn’t fully meet a need. Additionally, I’ve been concerned that I might enable incompetence in others.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something. Compassion is part of the answer, if it isn’t the whole.
Compassionate leaders explain what they can’t or won’t do with an eye focused on what they can.
- Give second chances and maintain high standards. “The best single question for testing an organization’s character is: What happens when people make mistakes?” Bob Sutton
- Allow people to face and solve the consequences of their mistakes. Be helpful without enabling incompetence.
- Affirm the good while dealing with the bad.
- Bring up tough issues optimistically.
What prevents leaders from showing compassion?
How might leaders navigate the challenges and opportunities of showing compassion?
interesting list indeed… I would add – having the courage to change direction and showing vulnerability.
I think being perceived as being vulnerable is an object to showing compassion and the tension between these needs to be balanced. I get frustrated when managers get upset at staff they ‘delegated to’ when they never should have (didn’t have the training support or skills) – those who express anger are often the ones primarily at fault.
Having a mirror of self reflection and acknowledging our own vulnerability allows us to be far more open-hearted and compassionate.
Thanks Richard. I knew instantly that you were nailing two big ones after reading your first sentence.
I wonder if the courage to change direction might include some self-compassion? (To stick with the compassion theme.)
As always, thank you for your insights. Have a great week.
ThiS is a good one. I’m heading into work now but, “I’LL BE BACK!”:-)
This is a very powerful blog my friend. For all the sound advice it gives, the underlying message it communicates is perfectly clear to me. Whether your a Leader, a Business Owner, Politian, Clergy, or just ‘an average Joe’, (but especially if you’re a leader), “if you truly want to put yourself in the best possible position to be successful while adding value to your employer, family, church, and community YOU MUST BECOME A PERSON OF INTEGRITY.
This starts with trust. Trust that you will do what you say. Trust that you will remain committed especially when the going gets tuff. Trust that being consistently Authentic is important to you. Only trust and time can lead to integrity. When we speak of others as being “Individuals of Integrity”, these individuals always put the best interest of others ahead of their own selfish agendas. Leaders of Integrity inspire us to believe that when we work together, even something BAD can be turned into ‘something Good’.
This may sound simple, but the simple truth is, IT’S NOT.
It was about a week or so ago I responded to a blog where a young man felt let down and disappointed by the very leader who promoted and believed in him. This young man knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had the total confidence of this leader. He just knew this person believed in him, his capabilities, and his individual skills and talents that brought added value to their organization. I refer to this particular blog as your response to my comment defended what I felt was poor judgment and behavior on the part of the leader. During a conversation between the leader in question and the leaders Boss, the Boss commented that he couldn’t understand who, or why someone would promote this young man and that he did not feel confident in the young man abilities, (obviously ‘The Boss’ did not share the Leaders confidence), where this young man was concerned. The Leader did not make his Boss aware that he in fact approved and supported the promotion. “Here’s where I must agree to disagree if I may Dan. You responded that ‘at times’, it’s best to be (Politically Correct) and keep your opinions to yourself, that is if you want to stay in the good graces of your Superiors. “Got uh -little problem with that one Dan. I fully understand that at times, circumstance and protocol require a certain level conduct on our part, but here’s my question. What does the lack of support on the part of the leader say about his integrity? If we say we believe in someone, or something, but hesitate to affirm our support until we (Test the waters), in order to be sure we don’t make any wave’s, ARE WE ‘REALLY’ A PERSON OF INTEGRITY? If we can not stand up for what we believe in, how can we call ourselves persons of integrity, Political Correctness’ or not? I strongly believe that every incident such as this, chip’s away our reputation of trustworthiness revealing a lack of integrity.
I’m sorry Dan, but I believe committing to being Politically Correct erodes any chance of building trust with those who work for us. Without trust, you never get efforts of your people, “you get satisfactory effort at best.”
Typo Dan, that’s, “you never get BEST…”
I suspect that we all have one or more leadership traits but that is not enough to make us leaders. Leadership is a lifestyle that few of us choose and even fewer of us can live. Leaders must:
— Give their word.
— Keep their word.
— Live their words.
— No excuses.
Leadership is more often than not an avocation but for most leaders it is a vocation.
Educators, businesses, and consultants have made matters much worse by preaching that we are all leaders. Leaders have followers and if no one is following us we are not leaders.
Saying that we lead ourselves is a truism and need not be stated or implied.
Employers have tried all sorts of things to create successful employees who do not need to be managed. Teaching/preaching leadership has been replaced by employee engagement. That won’t work either until managers learn how to hire and manage employees who will become engaged if managed well, treated fairly, and paid accordingly.
Employers often hire the best applicants they can find, i.e., the best and the brightest from the best schools. Then the employers promote the best and the brightest (the ever popular high-potentials) based on their job performance doing the work of the employees they will then manage after the promotion. But which ones get promoted into management? The best talker first, the second best talker next, and then the third best talker.
The only problem is that the third best talker makes the best manager. Why, because the first and second best talkers talk too much, listen too little, and managers need to listen more than they talk otherwise they never hear what is going right or wrong. The end results is that the best managers never make it into management or if they do they report to senior managers who are not well-suited for management.
The solution to the leadership shortage is to stop hiring the best and the brightest applicants and start hiring competent applicants who are well suited to be leaders. It is more about who the people are than their degrees.
“What prevents leaders from showing compassion?”
I think there’s more than one answer to this very important question. In no particular order, what comes to my mind are:
1. You really don’t care about people
2. You are a sociopath
3. You are suffering from compassion fatigue
4. You fear rejection
5. You’re of the “beatings will continue until morale improves” school of personnel mgmt
6. You project aspects of your personality onto others (e.g., you like to skate when you can)
7. You are in it for the paycheck
8. You play the short game rather than the long game
9. You see people as pieces of the machine (see #1 and #2 above)
10. You’re not committed to the company, the team or the vision
I only discovered this blog recently, but the advice is always sound and easy to take on board. I think one of the things that stops people showing compassion is simple long-formed habit. It doesn’t come instinctively. As you rightly say, indifference is easy – compassion takes work.
But, with practice and an understanding of its benefits – plus being able to see things from the employees perspective – leaders can become more compassionate.
I think this is a great blog and very helpful. I wonder what the group suggests when it comes to finding compassion for repeat offenders? I have a student employee who is chronically late and I am losing compassion for her excuses.
She is great at her job, gets the job done, and the students she assists academically love her so I’m not sure what to do to motivate her to get here on time.