I have the privilege of being with a lot of different leaders in a lot of different settings. Many times, leaders feel that their situation is unique, and in some ways, it’s true. Every leadership environment and challenge is unique. However, there are many things in leadership that are universal, and if you feel a little discouraged about your particular task, take a few minutes to remember some simple truths.
- Leadership is hard. Period. It’s hard for the rookies, and it’s hard for the vets. It’s hard in small organizations, and it’s hard in large departments and divisions. People, situations, environments, challenges, histories, shortfalls… all of these things are everywhere in abundance. Leadership looks easy from the sideline. It’s another thing in the ring. If you get discouraged because you think that it’s harder in your setting, then just remember: (1) Yes, it is hard, and (2) It’s not any easier in other places.
- It never seems “glamorous” when you are in the middle of it. Sometimes when you read an article or book about a great leader and how he transformed an organization or led her team to overcome some huge obstacle, it sounds so glamorous. You look at what you are doing, and think, “Compared to that, what I am doing isn’t very exciting.” The truth is, no matter how it sounds in print, it wasn’t that glamorous in real time. Leadership is made up of one thousand decisions and interactions a day—most of which are quite mundane. Only a handful of leaders are known outside of their organization, and some of the “success” stories we read about, pale in comparison to the stories of the unknown leaders buried in obscurity. Limelight and leadership aren’t usually synonymous. Most of the time, they are antonyms.
- You rarely know the difference you are making. I have the opportunity to listen to hard-working field operators in the trenches and deep-thinking managers dressed in coats and ties. When I hear them talk about the leaders that they’ve worked under, I realize over and over this one thing: relationships change us. As a leader, if you have healthy relationships with the people around you, then I am sure you are having a huge impact on their lives, even if they never tell you. Everyone needs encouragement from time to time, but great leaders don’t constantly crave validation from others. Great leaders are intrinsically motivated and that deeply impacts others.
Leaders, don’t give up! You’re influencing things and people a whole lot more than you realize. Like one grandmother told her grandson, adopt the attitude that says, “I may give out, but I’ll never give up!”