Leading is hard…if you read the euphemisms that are posted on LinkedIn or read the best sellers you might think it was easy…

It is simply not that simple, that vulnerability (the new buzzword) is the cure all, or that being a servant is the solution, or that empathy will bring you success.  In situations these may be necessary, but not in all situations and understanding when and how is the trick. Leading is contextually driven. The context defines the leadership strategy to be pursued and the leadership implementation needs to be authentic.

As I am sure you can imagine being empathetic is not always a great strategy when you have an underperforming employee that “needs a bit of a boot” to get them going in the right direction.  Certainly you would need to listen to their explanation for their performance but that doesn’t require empathy it requires acknowledgement. Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s feelings as if they are our own.  Acknowledging their feelings is not empathy rather it is recognizing their humanness.  An underperforming employee is hurting your team and the organization’s performance and your job as a leader is to manage that employee up. Feeling what they are feeling isn’t going to manage them up.  Talking them through what needs to change, setting performance goals and managing the process is required.  That is hard work…

I started this article with the idea that leadership is hard…It is hard because there is a delicate balance to pursuing the strategic activity of a working leader. How do you motivate people to perform at their highest level, what works for one may not work for another…How do you manage your people so that they feel appreciated, respected and valued and at the same time call them out when they are not meeting expectations.

Leadership is hard because you have to begin with “you”.  You have to appreciate, respect and value yourself, you have to have the self awareness and willingness to look at yourself honestly.  It all starts with you.  To be a strategic working leader it all starts with who you are….

As you develop your self- awareness and engage with yourself, you can find the genuine self that is needed to implement your leadership style and build a high performing organization.  The Zulu greeting of “I am here to be seen” and the corresponding response “I see you” can and should be the mantra of every organization and leader.

Leading is hard…it is much easier if you look at yourself first.

Leave a Comment