The Unpopular Truths About Leadership
Great leaders are a rare breed. This is partly because business ownership and leadership can be challenging. It is not a skill that you learn overnight. It's a skill that you often learn under pressure and overtime. The pressure of tight deadlines, the stress of being under a financial strain with limited resources, the pressure of leading others that might not necessarily share your passions, zeal, or knowledge set are all part of being a leader.
Great leaders are willing to accept personal responsibility, especially during challenging times. This humility, even when it's apparent that the challenge was a direct or indirect response to their actions. However, they swallow their pride, and they own it. However, these leaders are wise because they recognize that earning the trust of their employees and investors is critical.
A company is only as good as its leader. If the leader has lost trust, this will filter down their business like a disease. A negative attitude creates negative thoughts and emotions - a black hole of energy that sucks the life out of everything around it -- especially people. Leadership is full of tough decisions, but sometimes you must make unpopular decisions based on what's best for your team, not necessarily yourself. Leadership requires supporting others when they are struggling, even if that means sacrificing time or resources that could be used to further your agenda. Leadership is about building others up, not just oneself alone. Leadership resonates with humility because everyone can lead themselves somewhere, but leadership with humility brings people together. The fact is, the most successful people have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The unwillingness of being uncomfortable is why most people do not reach their goals, and over time, they stop making goals for fear of not reaching them.
Leadership is essential in moving forward because when things get tough, you have to motivate and support everyone in the team. Leadership starts with taking responsibility for your own emotions and building a successful mindset. Leadership requires making real connections with people- something that cannot be done from behind a computer screen or while looking at phones all day long. Leadership can only come from directly interacting with others and recognizing their value (whether they are friends or strangers). Leadership means accepting that one must make mistakes if one wants to learn anything.
Substantial leadership means putting others ahead of yourself. Leadership means doing what is right, even if it feels like you might fail. Leadership requires taking priority and taking action - and this takes strength. Leadership means being able to express gratitude to other people. Leadership means apologizing when you are wrong, not making excuses. Leadership means being transparent rather than deceptive. Leadership means being responsible for your team and your actions. Leadership means laying down the truth in a constructive way. Leadership requires addressing problems at their source and being great at analyzing a concern. Leadership requires knowing how and when to say no. Leadership is about being someone who can be trusted.
Leadership is sincere, authentic, accountable, and accurate. Leadership means every single person within the organization deserves respect. To gain followers or supporters or even friends, leadership requires setting an example above all else.
Leadership often comes with a price tag- leading others will mean that you have less time for yourself. This is where I will land my next point--leadership often takes time away from yourself, which can lead to damaging consequences. There are real physical and mental health consequences from leaders who fail to carve out time for their health. Leadership demands lots of time, energy, and attention--it's not always something you can do alone. Leadership requires rest to avoid burnout. Leadership is complex, and it can be taxing on your mental and physical health, and that has been my focus in my career, as I was once the leader who worked to the point of total exhaustion. I am sure you have heard this before," self-care isn't selfish."
As a primary care physician and coach, I have firsthand witnessed the impacts leadership can have on your relationships, and this is a real tragedy. Leadership is a marathon, and it should not be a sprint--so pace yourself. Leadership does require you to work long hours at times but remember that your time away from work does have its return for you and the whole team. Leadership requires being able to ask for help. Leadership is a challenging role and an arduous journey, so it's critical to admit when things aren't going so great. Leadership roles require lots of meetings and encounter with people throughout each day--you need to eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly, sustain your commitments outside of work (family).
The demands of leadership can lead to burnout. Carrying out these responsibilities may seem easy enough initially, but as time progresses, the responsibilities of work and your personal life increase, the load can be overwhelming. Leadership demands an enormous time commitment. Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. If you think you can handle taking on management roles and sustain them for years without burning out, you are wrong--something needs to give, and more often than not, it will be your personal life.
According to a recent article published in The Globe & Mail, leadership burnout is rising. A new Bromwich + Smith poll conducted by Angus Reid found that more than 70% of people are concerned about their mental and physical health. I believe burnout and mental health crises would have a more significant and more long-lasting impact than the Covid pandemic's direct effect. So the question we should ask ourselves is what definite plan of action we will take next to avoid burnout.