The Challenge of Frustration

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss leadership with a group of mid-level managers. At the end of my presentation I was approached by a significant number of the attendees who all had the same question.

 

The questions, while asked differently all had the same theme: what do I do when my “leader” isn’t a real leader at all?

 

The answer to that question is simple and complicated all at once. I’m assuming (I know that’s dangerous) that the people asking the question are truly leaders. That means they care about the people they lead, they understand that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead and that they get as much pleasure from their people’s success as they do their own. 

 

If that is the case then the answer to the question is this: Lead Up.

 

Lead your leader the same way you lead your followers. Realize that your leader is a person too, realize that they, like every other human being on the planet, have their faults and limitations. 

 

The most Authentic Leaders lead in every direction, down, across and up. That means that instead of criticizing the person above you, which accomplishes nothing, you should be trying to help them overcome their faults and limitations. You can coach them the same way you coach others, you can demonstrate that you care about them the same way you demonstrate that you care about others. You can invest yourself in their success as if their success was your own…because for an Authentic Leader it is.

 

But…and this is what makes it complicated, before you can do any of that you must earn the right to lead up. 

 

Earning the right to lead up requires that you lead yourself exceptionally well. You must have the trust of the person above you to lead up. You earn that trust by being completely transparent with your leader. You don’t say one thing to them and then something else to your followers. You do what you say you will do 100% of the time. You display the same integrity upwards as you do across and down. (just an aside here, you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity any time)

 

You must lead yourself in such a way that the person above you does not feel as if you require much help from them. You control your own attitude and keep it positive as much as humanly possible. You choose your words well and seldom just spout off the first thing that comes to mind. 

 

And then there’s this…you let them devour your ego food!

 

You allow them to sometimes, often, or even frequently take your success as their own. (I told you this was complicated) You take on assignments that your leader may receive credit for doing, you do more than you are required to do knowing full well that “others” may never know it was you who accomplished so much. 

 

I know from personal experience how truly challenging and frustrating that can be but here’s a question for you: are you leading to lead or are you leading for some type of personal glory?

 

If you’re leading to lead that means you lead because you want to make a difference; your motives are not selfish they are selfless. That’s a huge difference that allows you to feed your own ego even after giving much of your ego food to someone else. 

 

YOU know what you did and if you’re truly leading to lead, if you’re truly leading for the benefit of others and not yourself, then that is enough. More than enough actually. 


Leadership comes from many levels within an organization, it also goes in many directions. If you’re experiencing the frustration that comes with following a leader who doesn’t lead then do what real leaders do, stop complaining and start leading…today.


Are you in Control? Really?

So, you’re the boss! You’re the one in charge! You’re in Control!  The buck always stops with you! Well…not exactly.

     

When you’re at or near the top of your organization you have lots of influence, but you don’t control all that much. You don’t control your peoples’ attitudes. You can help them motivate themselves but if they don’t want to be motivated then their motivation is beyond your control. You can’t control what they think. You might be able to prevent them from saying something but you cannot prevent them from thinking it.

     

Somewhere along the way to achieving your leadership position someone might have told you that leadership, or being “the boss” is about being in charge and being in control. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that you can’t make much of anything happen by yourself. In fact, all you can control with any certainty is your own behavior.

     

But there is some good news. Your position likely means that you have boatloads of influence. So, use your behavior, your personal example, to influence the behavior and performance of others. Your team will do what you do far sooner than they will do what you say.  You are the model for their successful behavior.

     

You might also want to keep in mind that your influence goes both ways. If you have a negative attitude then your team will also. If you are not motivated then your team won’t be motivated either. The best way to get more from your team is to give more of yourself.

     

Authentic Leaders do not expect more from their people than they expect from themselves. Authentic Leaders know that the best way to lead is to “show” rather than “tell”.  Authentic Leaders are intentional in their effort; they “show” on purpose and often on schedule. They “self-check” their attitudes and use goals as a way of keeping themselves motivated.

     

Authentic Leaders know that their success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. Authentic Leaders are diligent in making certain they do nothing to hold their people back. They do not think in terms of controlling their people, they think in terms of influencing them and influencing them in a positive way.


Remember, control is a manager’s tool, influence is the tool of true leaders. Lead Today!

Perfect Leaders

Every leader I’ve ever met and every leader I’ll ever meet in the future all suffer from the identical weakness. They are human.

 

I actually believe “humanness” is the most vital strength a leader can have but there is no doubt being human comes with certain limitations. 

 

Humans aren’t perfect. That means they make mistakes, it means they have faults. It means they have, at least sometimes, less than desirable characteristics. 

 

Yet because they are leaders many people expect them to be perfect. 

 

In the understatement of understatements let me just say that’s not realistic. 

 

Very very few people do what I do in the environment that I do it in. I speak about, train on, and try to model leadership in a corporate environment, day after day. I say things like “this is how a leader should behave and this is how a leader should speak” and then I behave and speak differently. Not often but often enough that people notice. 

 

It’s one of the major reasons why people who do what I do almost always, nearly 100% of the time, do it as an independent consultant. Their message is judged on their words and not their actions. It’s not that people wouldn’t judge their actions, they are just not around long enough for that to happen.

 

Every time I say one thing and do another my message is diluted. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining in the least. That’s exactly how it should be, a leaders, and certainly someone who claims to be able to help build other leaders, words and actions should always match. But again, that human thing comes into play so….

 

Because I’m human I’ve accepted the fact that my words and actions won’t always match. Principles are after all much easier to talk about than they are to live. I’ve also accepted the fact that when my words and actions don’t match I’m not helping other people grow to the extent that I could if I was better at aligning what I say with what I do. I endeavor daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to improve in that area. If you ask those who I interact with everyday however they will tell you I have a long ways to go. So be it.

 

What everyone needs to understand is that there are no perfect leaders. Your leader’s actions will not always align with their words. It doesn’t mean that they don’t believe what they are saying, it doesn’t mean that what they are asking you to do is wrong. It does not mean that they are phony, and it does not mean that they are not an Authentic Leader, it simply means that they are human. As a leader they model leadership behavior but as a human they are a flawed model. 

 

Yes, it is far easier to find the faults of a leader but successful people rarely take the easy way. They most often take the most productive way and one of the most productive things you can do is to discover the strengths of the people around you, including your leader. 

 

Yes, it can be exceptionally challenging when the person above you isn’t exactly the humble type but that’s actually their problem, not yours. So don’t make it yours.

 

Instead of pointing out their gaps work to fill their gaps, if they are truly a leader they are trying to help you be more successful. Lead Up in your organization by trying to help your leaders be more successful too.


Leaders aren’t perfect and Authentic Leaders don’t claim to be so stop expecting perfection and allow your leader to lead. 

Leaders Don’t Complain

I’ll never really understand why some people continually complain about the people and circumstances they allow to be part of their lives. 

 

Some people would rather complain than actually do something about their situation. Doing something may require leaving their comfort zones and that’s well, that’s just too uncomfortable. Other people just want to fool themselves into thinking they have no power of decision, often because they have no idea what to do. 

 

Some people are just too lazy to take control over their lives. 

 

I wouldn’t care about any of that if they would just stop complaining about the things they allow to be part of their lives. If by chance there are things, people or circumstances in your life that you don’t like and you have no control over, well that’s a different story. 

 

If that’s the case then you need to change your attitude about it. Either learn to accept it or make a substantial enough change in your life to gain some control over the situation. Understand that complaining alone never solves anything. Change requires action and refusing to take action is acceptance of the situation. Don’t complain about what you accept. 

 

I know there are some circumstances that people can’t change, some situations there may not be a way out of, and those can cause bitterness which often results in complaining. In those cases complaining may be the only relief or outlet a person has. I get that.

 

What I’ll never understand however is someone in a leadership position, especially a senior leadership position, who has complete control, or nearly complete control over their circumstances and yet they complain about those circumstances while doing nothing to change them.

 

That is not leading. 

 

You’re in that position to lead. You’re in the position to build people, to build people who will help you build an organization. You’re not in a leadership position to condemn, criticize or complain. You’re especially not in that position to complain about a member of your team, someone that you likely hired. To complain about the people you’re responsible to build is sheer nonsense.

 

Here’s the deal. If you have someone who reports to you and they are not performing to your standards there are really only two possibilities. The first is that you hired the wrong person. You either were fooled in the interview (hey, it happens) or you missed something, or you “settled” for someone who didn’t meet the requirements. That’s on you, that’s your responsibility.

 

The second possibility is that you’re simply not providing them with the tools and training that they need to succeed. That’s on you too, that also is your responsibility. 

 

You might not like to admit it but that’s what leading is all about. Being responsible for the success of other people. With that in mind, why in the world would an Authentic Leader complain about a circumstance that they created? 

 

Authentic leaders don’t complain, they adjust their thinking, the adjust the plan, they modify their actions until such time as the circumstances change enough to remove the temptation to complain. 


You can complain or you can lead but you can’t do both. If you’re in a leadership position I’d highly recommend actually leading. 

The Importance of Leadership

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you know that leadership is about people. You understand that things are managed and people are led. 

 

Not all managers are also tasked with leading people but nearly all, or more likely absolutely all, leaders are also tasked with some management responsibility. 

 

And that’s a problem. 

 

It’s a problem because the management “stuff” almost always comes with deadlines. Quarter end, year-end inventory, budget preparation for the upcoming year, planning, bill paying, payroll, you name it, when it comes to managing it HAS to be done and it has to be done on time.

 

But leading seldom has deadlines. You’ll always have people and it is easy to let people wait. You can always recognize somebody later. “Someday” is the perfect time to coach or mentor a rising star in your organization. There’s always tomorrow in the world of leadership but I challenge you to find later, someday or tomorrow on your calendar. 

 

Virtually every leader I’ve ever asked has told me that their people are their greatest asset but follow them around for a week and you would be certain that statement was false. You’d be certain it was false because all the management stuff seems to be a priority while the leadership responsibilities and activities all seem to be optional.

 

The fact is the management stuff is urgent while the leadership behavior is merely important and in the fast-paced, competitive environment where most of us work urgent almost always trumps important.

 

But here’s the thing, the best, most effective leaders don’t let the urgent win. They literally schedule leadership activities in their calendar. They set aside time to interact with their people. They block out time on their calendars to get out from behind their desks and go into the workplace where their people are. They make it a point to provide frequent and meaningful recognition.

 

Authentic Leaders know that you can’t lead people without being involved and interacting with them. They understand that you can’t lead people you don’t care about and you can’t show you care about them until you know them.  


Be an Authentic Leader. Never let the urgent “things” overtake the absolute importance of truly leading the people who are ultimately responsible for your success and the success of your organization. 

Where Management and Leadership Skills Meet

I have written several times on the vast difference between managing and leading. Managing is about “stuff’, budgets, inventory, buildings, executing plans, etc. Leading is about people and only about people. 

 

Simply put, if you’re doing it for your business it’s managing. If you’re doing it for your people then it’s leadership. 

 

When what you’re doing is good for the organization AND a person or persons it’s what I call Manleaship.

 

The skill sets and more importantly the mindset of managers and leaders are almost completely different. It is very common in business that a person is either a manager or leader but not both. 

 

A business or organization that has people with good management skills and other people with good leadership skills can do okay, but only okay. A business or organization that has a person, or hopefully people, who have good management skills combined with good leadership skills can do better than okay…much much better. 

 

Managers likely know and understand the skills and abilities of their people. Managers, and I DO NOT mean this in a negative sense, tend to look at their people as assets or resources which in some sense they are. But leaders, especially Authentic Leaders and especially, especially, Authentic Servant Leaders look at their people as people, living breathing people with wants and needs, and challenges with a life outside of the workplace.

 

Managers and leaders have a different, sometimes very different, view of the same picture.

 

If a business or organization is going to do more than just okay then they need to make sure each person within their organization is in a position or performing a role that allows them the greatest chance for success. Some leaders and managers seem to forget that they and their organization cannot be successful if the people who make up the organization are unsuccessful. 

 

Never forget, as a leader or a manager you will never be more successful than your people.

 

So imagine how hard it is to help people succeed, to place them in roles with the greatest chance for success, when you only see one view of their picture. Throughout my career I’ve seen friends, family, and colleagues promoted or placed into positions where they had no chance to be successful. 

 

They may have had all the skills needed to excel but they did not have the temperament. Their physical and mental skills may have been excellent but their people skills simply didn’t measure up. Perhaps they had outstanding human relation skills but lacked some vital skill in another area. 

 

A pure manager or a pure leader could easily miss those critical facts. 

 

A person with both skill sets, or Manleaship skills likely would not. 

 

The combination of management and leadership skills may not be needed all that often but when it’s needed it’s really needed. So if you’re at or near the top of an organization that hasn’t been blessed with people who possess Manleaship skills then you need your managers and leaders to be talking with each other everyday. 


Who knows, that endless conversation may just result in them sharing their skill sets and you could end up with lots of people with Manleaship skills. Then you’ll be doing way better than just okay!

Are You the “Right” Kind of Leader?

One of the many challenges of leadership is this little gem: doing what’s right and doing what’s popular are very often two different things. 

 

Authentic leaders do what’s right. They do what’s right even when it isn’t easy and they do what’s right even when it isn’t popular.  They lead by principle not by poll. They gather facts and information and then they decide. Once they decide they act. It’s pretty much always in that order.

 

There are many people in leadership positions who don’t actually lead. Instead they put a finger in the air to determine which way the wind is blowing and then they go with the flow. These imitation leaders have a need to be liked and that need is so strong that they refuse to risk upsetting anyone by doing what needs to be done. 

 

So sadly, right often loses out to popular or easy.

 

If you want to be a leader then buck up and trade-up from popular to respected. Do the right thing whether it’s popular or not! 

 

If you’re not sure what’s “right” then consult with trusted resources, ask your mentor, ask other Authentic Leaders what they have done in similar situations. Determine what’s right and once you do then act. 

 

Here’s the thing for those of you who still worry about your popularity: doing the easy thing may make you popular in the short-term but doing the right thing, while it may take some time, will make you a leader in the long-term. 


Leading isn’t always fun, it isn’t always easy and leaders aren’t always popular but true leadership is always rewarding. Reward yourself, always do the right thing.