At first glance, leadership might seem like a great deal. It comes with power, respect, the ability to manage your own schedule, larger paychecks, and more. But, people don’t always realize that all these trappings come at a price.
Upon entering into a leadership role, it’s important to understand the real cost, so you’re ready when it arrives. In our book, Would You Work for You? The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within, we wrote that, “As we get promoted, things quickly change. The loss of… support mechanisms can cause the unprepared leader to quickly flounder.”
People Expect You to Remember
As a leader, you might have 150 interactions a day. At some point these interactions begin to pile up, potentially blurring together. But, you need to bear in mind that each person you speak with only has one interaction with you, that interaction will stand out in their mind, and you cannot afford to be off for it.
Even if 90% of your interactions are excellent, that leaves 15 other people whose loyalty and trust could be at risk. Think of yourself as akin to an airline pilot who strives to land a plane successfully 100% of the time.
Your team members expect you to remember personal information they share with you. They might tell you that their child is going off to college in September or that their mother is sick. When you forget, they notice immediately and might even assume you aren’t truly invested in their lives. Calendars, notes, and other digital tools are key for a leader committed to prioritizing relationships within a modern workplace.
Things Get Quiet When You Arrive
Leaders don’t begin their careers as leaders but as members of a team. As we wrote in our book, “There are many advantages on that end of things. You have the company of peers, the comradery of the team, the opportunity to converse and commiserate, and you often get insulation from responsibility.” However, once you enter into a leadership role, your membership in the group begins to fade. The types of conversations people have with you change.
While this can be lonely at times, as a leader you are there to serve and care for your team, even if you don’t get anything in return. It’s a bit like being a parent. Parents work continuously and are frequently exhausted, but they don’t get much gratitude for changing diapers or keeping a child well-fed.
So, when you walk into a room and the conversation dies down, accept that this dynamic is a normal part of leadership. Do not allow yourself to grow angry, hurt, or upset. Make the rounds, find opportunities to connect with your team members, then leave and give them the space to authentically interact with each other.
The support of a trusted peer group helps prevent isolation from setting in too deeply. I strongly recommend building a circle of advisors to offer valuable perspective, advice, and companionship.
Prepare to Be Misunderstood
People listen for what they want to hear when the words are coming from a leader. Begin communication by thinking strategically about how the people you’re speaking to are likely to receive your message.
One group might hear what you’re saying one way, another may wish to interpret it differently, and a third might be looking for options to manipulate your words for their own ends. Be prepared with multiple communication styles, methods, and tools so you can tailor your messages to each circumstance and audience.
In the unavoidable moments when you are misunderstood, give yourself a few minutes to feel frustrated or sad, then figure out how to move on and address the problem. No one has any sympathy for a leader with hurt feelings.
There’s Also a Reward for Being a Leader
If you’re eager to be a leader for the purpose of exercising positional authority or your own aggrandizement, it can be difficult to stay the course. The high price might outweigh the personal rewards.
However, there is a unique and wonderful satisfaction that comes from making things better. As a leader, you have the opportunity to improve your team’s situation and have a positive impact on your organization, customers, and community. Focusing on these results, rather than personal gains, makes the cost far easier to bear.
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Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.