Tough lessons by their very nature are not easy to come by. But these lessons are the pillars on which we build the rest of our lives. They need to be sturdy. They need to be well established. And they need to be able to withstand the pressure that comes with ridicule and judgement from those who think they are unnecessary.
How tough are your lessons?
Every high-functioning leader of which I am aware, has learned their share of tough lessons. It is an inescapable reality; if you desire to be in a place of leadership you will have to pass through the crucible of embarrassing mistakes and loud, sometimes obnoxious, detractors.
The question isn’t whether you will encounter tough leadership choices. The question is how will you respond when you do?
Here are a few tough lessons I have had to learn the hard way.
Good leadership is less about what you do and more about who you are. Sure, we will all be judged according to what we do – and rightly so. After all, I can’t expect a rave review and a raise if I continually came up short on performing my responsibilities. But the larger question that will need to be answered if we desire to lead well, is “Why did I not perform my job well?”. Am I lazy? Apathetic? Do I give up too easy? Do I simply lack tenacity? These are all questions of character. Who we are will direct what we do.
Good leaders are less preoccupied with position and more with influence. Titles are great and they reflect how others see us in our spheres of influence. As such they have their place. But good leaders have learned the tough lessons that sometimes titles are more of a hindrance than a privilege. Titles can separate us from the field of combat. They have a tendency to make us think more of ourselves than we ought. If you obtain a glamorous title for your achievements, embrace it. But remember, good leaders understand titles are only the window dressing, nothing more.
Good leaders ask tough questions of themselves and others. Asking tough questions has a cleansing affect on everyone. They help root out bedrock issues of conflict and they clarify otherwise murky forecasts.
Good leaders maintain high standards. High standards are not hard to make. They are hard to keep. But keep them you must if you want to lead well. They are part and parcel of asking good questions. One reason you learn to ask pointed and revealing questions is because you want to understand what is happening. This understanding helps makes clear a path forward and maintains a standard of product and conduct.
Good leaders embrace the journey. The sum total of our lives will not be displayed on a trophy shelf or in our checkbooks. It will be revealed on the glowing, weathered faces of our friends and family that have journeyed with us. The exhilaration of reaching the top can only be realized if there is someone there with whom you can share it.