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Leadership Thought #463 – You Need To Have Thick Skin To Lead Others

Leadership is not for the faint of heart.  It certainly has its ups and downs and can test anyone’s emotional fortitude.  However, this is the very reason so few people can do it well.  If you take every small slight and failure personally, the job will eat you alive.  Whenever you assume a position of responsibility, you automatically also assume a roster of critics and malcontents who aren’t always aligned with your leadership vision.  Since you can’t realistically fire everyone who disagrees with you (nor is this advisable), then you need to figure out other ways to handle the pressures and scrutiny.

I’ve found that the best leaders I work with welcome the criticism.  They don’t always like it, but they accept that a key aspect of leading people is harnessing disparate points of view and feelings.  I don’t care how smart you are, no one person has all the right answers.  And, since we are all human, we will inevitably make mistakes.  To some extent, your critics keep you on your toes.  They help you maintain your ‘A game” and not take your position for granted.  If you are willing to listen to and embrace their feedback, you will definitely make better decisions.   Of course, there will always be points of diminishing returns, but don’t be too quick to assume you’ve reached this level of dysfunction.  Getting better often involves hard work.

In my life I’ve found that if you can navigate the rocky waters of professional disagreement effectively, then  you actually end up building new advocates for your point of view.  Sometimes the people who were most resistant initially end up becoming your most loyal colleagues.  Give me someone who is up front and honest with their opinions over someone who is more passive-aggressive any day. Healthy relationships are only ever possible if people can be authentically honest with one another.  I’ve also found that much of the initial angst and tension between two people is often due to poor communication and misunderstandings.

Leadership means embracing the spotlight not withering under it.  The very act of putting yourself out there and assuming others will follow is an act of unusual self-confidence.  Most people are hard-wired to follow not lead.  However, everyone can be a critic.  So be it.  As they saying goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” As a leader you will have good days and bad ones.  You will make great decisions and have many others you would like to take back.  You will trust people who disappoint you and lose good people to your competition.  You will be forced to make decisions with imperfect information and sometimes fail as result.  Many external market forces will be beyond your control to predict and/or influence. Some of your employees will make your life easier while others will require more work than you’d like. Not everyone will always think you are wonderful.

However, when all is said and done, leaders are in the minority people in this world who get to actually influence the future.  They ultimately reap what they sow as a business and individual.  Leaders have the opportunity to make a real positive difference in the lives of their family, employees and community. Maybe even this world.  Leaders get to stretch their personal capabilities in ways others will never experience.   Theirs will be a life of their own making.  Aren’t the benefits of leadership worth a little scrutiny and criticism?  You need to have thick skin to lead others and it is almost always worth it!


Song of the Day: “Only The Young” by Journey

It’s depressing how many bands break up at the peak of their fame and talent.  They finally get to the point where everything is clicking and then decide to throw it all away.  Rarely do the individual members ever go on to achieve anything of similar impact.  There must be some strange chemistry that exists that creates an artistic tension that is bound the snap at some point.  I’ve often wondered if they paced themselves better and didn’t try to maximize everything all at once if their careers would last longer.  The pressure of constantly touring and recording must become too intense.  You must also reach a point where the money no longer matters and the artistic part of the vibe becomes harder to come by.

Journey was a great band that accomplished alot in a relatively short period of time then flamed out.  Their song catalogue still holds up to this day and their legion of fans only seems to grow with time.  The group has reformed with a new lead singer but it will never be the same.  Meanwhile Steve Perry who is an incredible lead singer has disappeared into the former rock star abyss.

I first heard the songOnly The Young” as part of the move Vision Quest which I never get tired of watching.  The song like the movie captures the intensity and angst of transitioning from a teenager to adulthood perfectly.  What in retrospect seems meaningless at the time was full of importance.  There is no other period in life when you are so caught up in the here and now.  While youth may be full hope, optimism and potential, it is also a deeply personal and egocentric experience.   The bubble of your life is about to burst and its difficult to fully grasp what comes next.

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