The Truth About Great Leadership

leadershipThere is simply a ton of stuff written about leadership. You can find it all over the web. There are sections in libraries and bookstores dedicated to the topic. I’m not sure we could even count all the blogs with a focus on leadership.

If you can’t find something “new” written on the topic of leadership everyday you just aren’t looking. It’s everywhere!

Much of it is very very good. Much of it is very true. Much of it is very motivational and positive.

This is not a positive post. It’s not very motivational either but it is very very true.

I write lots of very positive and motivational leadership tweets over on my Twitter @leadtoday. I believe in everything I write. Leading others is both fulfilling and rewarding. If it’s not both of those for you then maybe you’re not really leading or you need to change your leadership focus from you to your followers.

I have read (and even Tweeted) that if “it’s lonely at the top” you must be doing something wrong. That’s mostly right. But not always. Sometimes it’s very wrong. Sometimes “the top” is the loneliest place on earth.

I also often say that if you’re going to lead you simply must be able to make decisions. That is always right. The good news is that most of the decisions a leader is required to make are easy. Cut and dried. Black and white. Easy!

Sometimes the decision to be made is so big and important that no matter how much consult or input you receive it’s still you making the ultimate decision on your own. Alone.

Sometimes that big decision isn’t even made at the top. Sometimes it’s made from the middle. That doesn’t make it a smaller decision, that can make it even bigger. It can make it harder too, harder in the sense that there is less “protection” in the middle than there is at the top. Either way, making that decision can put you in a pretty lonely place.

Authentic, experienced leaders know that the toughest decisions are the ones that involve people. Money decisions, decisions about vendors, buildings, processes, and investments can all be dwarfed by decisions that involve the lives of other people.

Some leaders run from those decisions. Some hope they just take care of themselves. Still other leaders become almost paralyzed struggling about what to do. The amazing thing is that in most everyone of those instances the leader knows what needs to be done. They know what’s right, they just can’t make themselves do it.

They struggle because doing what’s right may come at great personal expense. When I say expense I’m not talking about money, if it was about money the struggle would be short-lived. The type of expense I’m talking about is personal, long-lasting and emotional. It is the kind of expense that changes lives forever, maybe even the life of the leader. It’s the kind of expense that hurts people, sometimes good people.

It’s a truly monumental decision.

Authentic leaders, the ones who make a real difference in this world, make it. They may only have a few decisions of that magnitude to make in their lives but they make them. They know that avoiding the decision IS a decision. It’s a decision to do nothing and it frequently leads to disaster. So they make the decision.

Authentic leaders know that it takes courage to make these decisions. That courage comes from rock solid principles and the conviction to stand by them, no matter what. They don’t make these kinds of decisions in the absence of fear, they make them in spite of the fear.

You can make a lot of poor decisions on the smaller things and still succeed. If you’re going to succeed as a leader you must get nearly all the big ones right. Perfectly right.

That’s what great leaders do.


10 thoughts on “The Truth About Great Leadership

  1. I think the best leaders also aren’t afraid to fail. They’re ok with struggling. In fact they embrace the tough times. They don’t hide the fact if something is going to be hard to accomplish. They show their good stuff, what they’re afraid of, and where they’re weak. They don’t have all the answers. This is what makes people want to run through, over, or around those brick walls..

    1. I agree Steve! You’re describing a great leader indeed. One whose impact will survive their time as leader. They are all too rare but when you find one they are a joy to watch, learn from and follow.

  2. “Sometimes that big decision isn’t even made at the top. Sometimes it’s made from the middle. That doesn’t make it a smaller decision, that can make it even bigger.”

    I love this part!! It gives leaders of all heights the courage to stand up when they believe in something even if it means challenging the existing “hierarchy”. Thats exactly what kind of leaders we need now… leaders that inspire and create more leaders!!

    I also agree with your thoughts on making decisions. Thats what defined the great from the good. Those who can make those tough decisions without looking back, not because they didn’t care of the consequences but because they projected themselves into the future and were filled with confident when it came time to make the choice!

    You speak truth, thank you for this post!!!

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The reality is, most decisions are made in the middle of the organization. All those “little” decisions separate good organizations from great ones.

  3. Excellent points, Steve. Great leaders are willing to take a stand, even when it puts them on the line. And that can be a lonely place indeed!

    p.s. I agree with the discussion that this is about leadership, which can emerge from anywhere, and not just leaders at the top.

    1. Thanks, so often we think of the leader as just one person at the top. No organization can last long without leaders at all levels and each level has it’s own challenges.

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