Why Leadership Sucks!


It’s amazing to me the number of people in leadership positions who say that “the people part” of their job is the toughest. They say things like “my people just don’t care” and “it’s lonely at the top.”

They almost never like my response. I’ve tried to soften my answer, I’ve tried responding to them a hundred different ways. But the answer always remains some variation of this: if your people “don’t care” or you’re really “lonely at the top” then you may be in a leadership position but you clearly aren’t leading.

Leading, truly leading, doesn’t suck, not even a little. Being in a leadership position and NOT leading, well that sucks a lot.

With leadership comes responsibility. Responsibility to make sure your people DO get it. Responsibility to create the type of culture where your people WILL care. Leadership comes with the responsibility to care for your people and to show it frequently and intentionally.

Authentic leaders also accept responsibility for the success or failure of their people.

I’m always amazed to hear someone in a leadership position disparage one of their people. The say something like “the guy is just an idiot”, and then I ask them who hired the guy. They get a kind of quizzical look at their face but they never fully connect the dots.

If you have someone working for you and they are not performing up to expectations then there are really only two possibilities, either you are not giving them the tools and training to succeed or you hired the wrong person. An authentic leader accepts that responsibility while someone merely in a leadership position will shift the responsibility to anyone but themselves.

If you’re an authentic leader, someone leading for the benefit of others and not themselves, then you love leading. You know you’re making a difference in the lives of your people and you know your legacy will outlast you. Obstacles are just opportunities to grow and you relish each new challenge with a commitment to excel.

If you’re an authentic leader you have the kind of relationship with your people to ensure they “get it” and its never lonely at the top because your people are right there with you.

Leadership sucks? Nothing could be further from the truth!

9 thoughts on “Why Leadership Sucks!

  1. I’ve especially enjoyed reading these last two posts, Steve. This is a good one.

    You’ve brought up so many great points. It seems at the heart of the issue with these like this is simply INTEGRITY. Sometimes it’s easier to initially project our own dissatisfaction onto others rather then consciously be aware that it’s really not about anyone else as much as it is what is going on inside of ourselves. And I don’t say this to shame leaders or ANY of us. It simply easier to get caught up in the externals that we miss the boat of our own hearts.

    For the leader you described, I’d say they were experiences a case of burnout as a leader. Which CAN be remedied with proper rest and perhaps a vacation or temporary ‘sabbatical’ to recharge. However, if this leader simply doesn’t LIKE people…well…they really have no business being in leadership. Which is ALL about people. They could spend the rest of their career trying to control everyone around them in attempt to regulate their own reactionary internal feelings. If that makes sense.

    And frankly, so many leaders really haven’t had good modeling themselves. So they may tend to model what was shown to them. Fortunately, I believe most anyone can become a better leader if they have a sincere desire to do so. Yet, it requires the temporary ‘pain’ of self-honesty.

    Self-awareness and a willingness to become totally honest with ourselves is the first step. Followed by the risk to be vulnerable enough to face those weaknesses.

    We truly live in a time where we all have to help one another ‘re-learn’ some old but ineffective behaviors. I believe it CAN be done. And I believe we can do it together. With honesty, openness, and willingness to try. (complements of Melodie Beattie! 🙂

    1. Wow, what a thoughtful comment. I agree with every word. It is indeed easy to slip from authentic leadership into positional leadership through burnout and too many setbacks.

      I’d also say that good leaders like their people but great leaders love their people.

  2. Steve,

    An observation – many people get into positions of formal leadership (the ones with the fancy, big title) and are stunned to realize how much responsibility comes with the position. They are prepared for the “responsibility” of the financial aspects. As you point out, they don’t fully connect themselves to the significance that their actions bring to bear on those they lead.

    Thanks for bringing the human element into the light.

    Excellent post!

  3. Hi, Steve;Your message is 100% sound, but too many “leaders” either do not understand or go deaf when you repeat it.
    You are proposing a change of behaviour and a change of attitude to people who are opposed to any kind of change. You are not listened to because they fear what you propose. Their status quo is more important than the arrival of the 21st century.
    it is my belief that your message will penetrate eventually. A demonstration that developing your colleagues’ capabilities pays dividends in increasing profitability is a very potent message that will not be ignored by senior execs (provided that they are given credit for the initiative)!
    My novel Into Happy Havens explores this this theme as fiction My blogs support the same theme.
    See HEAD of HOUSE @wordpress.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree, too many “leaders” accept the “poor” current situation over the much better “could be” simply because the should be involves change and effort – they are what I call Lazy Leaders. It’s sad they ever found themselves in a leadership position.

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