As I sit here this morning and gather my thoughts, I am tired. I am feeling my age. And I am feeling the effects of the last several months. It was not full of physical labor. My work does not require the kind of heavy lifting and strenuous physical activity that many folks experience in their jobs. But, I have labored nonetheless.
In the time since my last article, I have had significant changes and lots of added responsibility at work. We have sold our old house and bought a new house and moved into a house twice the size of the old one. And I have continued to try to market the book that launched last Fall.
And so it goes. Nothing gets done without some kind of labor. So it is in that context that I want to consider whether leadership is easy, or hard, and if it requires a little labor in order to be successful.
If “easy leadership” exists, it exists in the higher echelons of an organization. It is at those levels that there are resources available to help you as a leader. There are resources like budgets and coaches and dedicated followers who receive either satisfaction or compensation based upon the success of the leader. That kind of environment would make leadership at least easier than trying to lead in many other environments where there is conflict and little or no resources to support the leader and the organization.
The last sentence of the paragraph above sort of defines “hard leadership.” Leadership is hard in an environment where there is open conflict between the leader and followers and even when there is open conflict among the followers. Leadership is hard when the challenges that an organization faces are sucking the life and energy out of the team. Leadership is hard when there are no resources for even the basic tools that are needed to achieve a goal.
Labor and Leadership
We Need to Accurately Assess Our Abilities
Although this may not seem to fall under the category of “labor,” it is nonetheless one of the hardest tasks we undertake as a leader. In my latest book, The Emotionally Agile Leader, I address this topic following a brief primer on emotional intelligence (EI). One of the four aspects of EI is the ability to be aware of ourselves and how we are coming across to those around us. On page 12 of that book I note the following:
“We have to learn and accept our strengths and weaknesses and become aware of how we are affecting others.”
An accurate assessment of our abilities and our effect on those around us is an absolute necessity if we are to become a more effective leader.
We Need to Work at Our Craft
Once we have assessed our leadership abilities, and there are a ton of online resources to help us do that, we will have a picture of our strengths and weaknesses. It is incumbent upon us at that point to begin to maximize our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. Some will be able to work this out on our own. Some will need to enlist the assistance of a coach or mentor. Regardless of whether we go it alone or if we get some help, we must make a conscious effort to work on those areas that have been identified as the most pressing areas of concern.
No single leader will possess the highest levels of competencies for each facet of leadership. There are way too many leadership facets or traits. You may be a great communicator, but you are not very organized. You may be very strategic, but not very empathetic. You may be very inspiring, but not very focused. However, we can improve each weakness that we have identified.
Therefore, pick one or two weaknesses and exert some effort and labor a little in order to become better in those specific areas.
We Need to Know When Our Time is Up
This is an area where many leaders struggle. Even if you are the greatest leader of all time. The reality is that your leadership may have been for a time or for a season. Once that time is over and that season has passed, our effectiveness may no longer be at the level that it once was.
I was still discussing the issue of accurately assessing our abilities on page 12 of my most recent book who I made the following statement:
“Real leaders do not blame others for why they are not successful as leaders.”
Blaming others for our failures or shortcomings is easy and it is part of our human nature. But that doesn’t make it right. In fact, it is completely wrong.
What can a leader do when they have done all that they can and they are still ineffective in their current assignment? They may need to make the decision that they are no longer the right leader for the current situation. They may have to make the tough decision that their time is up and that their departure may offer the organization the best opportunity to succeed again.
Realizing that their time is up and departing with dignity, grace and a little dose of humbleness will allow the organization to call another leader who may be the right one for this time and for this season.
Hearkening back to the opening paragraphs of this article we find ourselves enjoying the fruits of our labor. Labor Day also punctuates the end of the Summer and finds everyone with thoughts of getting back to school. Is getting back to school on your mind? Do you have children or grandchildren that are back in school?
What about you? Would you be a better leader if you decided to labor a little and work on your leadership skills this Fall? If so, stay tuned. I am glad to be back in a content creation mode and I have some great content planned for the coming days.
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