The 4 Burdens of Leadership People Don’t Understand
Meaningful service and happy feelings don’t always go together.
A happy life is easier than carrying the burdens of leadership.
Some people get to the place where they want a simple job with no responsibility. They say, “I carried the burden of leadership long enough. Let someone else do it.”
Meaningful leadership and happy living aren’t the same thing.
If you want to feel happy all the time, don’t get into leadership.
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. White
Happiness happens in the moment. You feel happy having coffee with friends, eating a great meal, or finding a great buy on a new outfit.
Meaningful and happy aren’t the same.
The 4 burdens of leadership:
#1. Others don’t care as deeply as you.
You’re the one laying awake trying to solve problems, meet payroll, avoid layoffs, and maximize profits.
#2. Questioned motives.
You work to do the right thing. Some think you’re being selfish.
You work to be fair. Some think you play favorites.
#3. An otherish focus.
Average employees show up thinking about themselves. Leaders show up thinking about everyone else.
#4. Low appreciation.
I suppose everyone has moments when they feel underappreciated. Only a handful of people appreciate the burdens of leadership.
Heaven forbid you should share some of the burdens of leadership. People look at you and say, “That’s what you’re paid for.”
Meaning and happiness:
When you choose leadership sometimes you choose meaningful misery.
Meaningful service includes worry, stress, and anxiety that self-serving people don’t experience.
It doesn’t feel good to do hard things while you’re doing them. Fulfillment is often about the memory of doing hard, but meaningful things.
How are you navigating the tension between happiness and the burdens of leadership?
Blame: It’s E. B. White’s Fault
Victims: The People Leaders Deal with Everyday
Insightful and true in every respect.
Thanks Jim. Best to you.
One of your best yet Dan. You hit the nail on the head.
Thanks Andrew. Best wishes.
So, too. I agree with the others – one of your best.
Thanks Eva. Cheers!
Just this past week these very thoughts swirled through my mind. Glad to know I was on point and not quite over the edge of being of point inside of still follong a leadership instinct.
Thanks for your transparency Nancy. I wish you well on the journey.
Kind of a bummer, but well said. In some ancient languages, the word for “leader” and the word for “sacrifice” are the same.
Thanks MAJ. It is a reality check. It’s kind of like parenting. People are happier after the children are grown and on their own. But those parenting years are usually the most fulfilling.
Thanks Dan! Less than two weeks away from retiring from a 30 year leadership role, and just starting to feel the weight lifting! Looking forward to enjoying the memories of the career!
Thanks Carol. Congratulations. I wish you a fruitful second half. Cheers.
You definitely nailed it, Dan. I’ve especially been feeling this over the last six months as we have been very short-staffed. My staff is certainly willing to help as much as they can, but I’m the one that’s primarily had to figure it out and work whatever hours are necessary to get everything done. It definitely doesn’t feel good to be doing hard things while you are doing them!
Thanks Julie. These sure are challenging times. I think that’s way leadership is even more important today than ever before. Cheers!
I think you need to find the right balance between improving and enjoying.
I’m happy when I lead and take steps that improve the status quo.
When things don’t work as expected, I learn from the experience and figure out what to try next.
Happiness is adding value, making progress, and enjoying the improved results.
Thanks Paul. I just heard Brene’ Brown in an audible book say that the whole-hearted play alot. 🙂 Let yourself be happy. Happy is good.
Humm, maybe I sound Pollyanna, but I’ve always found strength in the vision, the calling, the privilege of the role. Of course I’ve had bad days, of course I’ve been misunderstood, of course folks get on my nerves. Your post challenged me to recall a long period when leadership was burdensome, and I’ve had those times — a failed start-up in which (I thought) every puzzle piece was covered perfectly… but no. I came away saying “I’ve learned so much.” But even in my mid 60’s with my industrial career behind me, when called to new leadership roles, I still answer “lets have coffee and chat about it.” I’m not ready to cash in the joy of building teams, people, organizations…
Thanks Ken. Your comment is inspiring. The word fulfillment comes to mind. Happy is easy. It’s eating a great meal. Fulfillment often requires doing challenging things. Thanks again for your insights.
Giving you a thumbs up for being a Pollyanna.
I am reminded of a post Dan made six months ish ago about it being up to each of us to find meaning in our work.
Thanks, Elizabeth for an encouraging word. 🙂
Dan, your almost prophetic this morning. The weight of leadership has been a bit much lately. I have recently uttered the words, “it’s too much, I need someone else to carry the load!” Then I am reminded that I was put in this place, at this time, to lead this team. That get’s me through the day and tomorrow we put our best foot forward and do it again. Your message is a great encouragement today.
Well stated, Dan. Having said this, the “antidote” to this burden is an unfettered connection with people served, and a deep sense of purpose / direction.
Thanks Dan, reminds me of the Steve Jobs quote “What Does Steve Jobs Mean By; “If You Want To Make Everyone Happy Don’t Be A Leader, Sell Ice Cream”
Thanks Philip. Good quote. Keep on moving! 😆
Being a great leader can sometimes stink. When things go great, you pass the recognition onto your team, I am here because of the hard work my team does well. When things are not going well, the great Leader takes the responsibility, risk, etc. for that, and shields the team. Great leaders often don’t get recognition, inevitably, bring up the topic and you will get a “Well, heavy is the head that wears the crown” comments. — Thanks for addressing this complex topic.
Thanks Dan! Wow, I’m feeling every bit of this right now. I’ve been an individual contributor all my life & just recently moved into a manager role. The burden is WAY more than I could have ever imagined. Feeling overwhelmed has been a daily occurrence since I started 1.5 months ago!
Good leaders have it hard. Reminds me to ask myself, “Am I being a good follower?”
I related to everything in this article, and would love to share it with my co-workers, but then that might seem self-serving. Just another burden is that we must suffer in silence to some degree and maintaining humility is part of each of the 4 burdens.
True, all of it. In discussing this with a mentor recently, he said “We suffer for those we serve.”
One of the most meaningful things I have encountered personally concerning leadership was from a fellow school superintendent and it went something like this: “We, as leaders, should obviously pray for those we have been entrusted to, but sometimes it isn’t reciprocal. It is therefore incumbent of us to pray for one another and to ask how others are and listen to their responses, concerns and questions”.
It hit me at the time and quietly reminds me every time that I recall it.
Pingback: 5 Ways Arrogance Struggles on its Own - Leadership Freak