Leadership Sucks (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)
Don’t let the title fool you. I do love what I do. Deploying the latest in digital printing technology for Wright’s clients – love that. The chess game of crafting a big licensing deal – a must have for me. Theoretical marketing debates that turn into “light bulb” moments – these get me out of bed in the morning. Blogging about smartphones and toilets – let’s just say I’m Uma Thurman…..and John Travolta just administered some timely “first aid”. I really do love what I do, but with regard to leadership…I absolutely love it. But it sucks (stay with me, people!).
Equip & Release
Volumes have been written about leadership. What makes a great leader, how great leaders inspire others, the 10 Commandments of leadership, great leaders and their goldfish, blah, blah, blah. But after that poor pony has been pummeled to death, only two simple truths remain. Equip. And Release. Equip and release – that’s it. Leaders lead by equipping their teams with the tools and mindset to be successful. Leaders lead by preparing their teams for stormy weather. Leaders lead by encouraging their teams to think creatively, to get inside the heads of others, to study and learn from their competitors, and to be relentlessly focused on the prize of success. Don’t fear success – romance it. And once you as a leader have fully equipped your team for the mission at hand, you release them into the arena to battle the lions. As you continue to mentor your people, their skills will increase to the point where they begin equipping others. The rewards are endless, and like compound interest, keep growing.
All of this I love – it’s a never ending series of challenges, with every one slightly different and offering new lessons for the future. But now for the sucky part.
The downside to leadership is leadership – more specifically, the responsibilities that one must assume alone to join the club. How do you separate your desire to be one of the team and participate in office events and group lunches with the need to maintain your executive aura and Yoda-like presence? You really can’t, and it sucks. What happens when you mentor the hell out of a productive employee, equip him or her with all the tools needed to be a star, and upon release witness a total self-immolation that you are powerless to stop? Sucks. And after countless hours working with a promising employee, serving up the sum total of your decades of collective wisdom on a silver platter, what happens when you realize that all your efforts have been ignored or discarded and this person must be fired? And you have to do it, bearing the sense of loss and the accompanying heavy heart for the ramifications of your action? Bullet train to Suckville Station. Leaders can have lots of friends when times are good, when everyone is performing well, when business conditions are as predicted. But give me a business downturn, an employee performance problem, a black swan event, and it becomes very lonely. This is a huge downside for me. As much as I am thrilled by the constant challenges of my profession and my life, the periodic loneliness that makes it possible will always suck.