Leadership can be an unpopular business
“Leadership can be an unpopular business. The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.”
Tony Blair (former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)
The above quote from Tony Blair led me to the theme for this week’s edition. Throughout my career in leadership I have had to accept this one inescapable truth: I will not always make decisions that will make me universally popular. However, make them I must!
Here is the conundrum: When leading, we must always put our followers first; we must always consider what is best for our team members; we must always be servant leaders. However, in the course of business, as leaders we will occasionally find ourselves in a position where in order to do the best for our team members we must first make hard decisions that are not readily understood or agreed to by them. We must not allow our resolve to weaken because of pressure brought by those who would have us bend to their wishes! We are the leaders; we must lead; we must not follow; we must be strong.
In order to lead, you must maintain the integrity of your team. Without the team, you will have no one to lead. However, you must also do everything you can to maintain the profitability of your division and your company. To that end you will invariably have to make unpopular decisions. In fact, if you are in a leadership position and never find yourself making unpopular decisions, you are probably not doing a very good job for your company or your team.
“How can I do both?” you might ask. You must clearly and concisely communicate the reasons for your difficult or unpopular decisions to your team. Only through open, honest, timely communication can you gain the trust from your team that will carry you through a myriad of difficult decisions. Never lie or mislead and always disseminate difficult information to the team as soon as you can. Because of your strong communication efforts, most will understand that you are doing the best thing for the team and they will shower you with trust in the moment and trust enduring.
“But, I am afraid they won’t like me!” you might say. Please accept that a leader who is indecisive, inconsistent, dishonest, misleading, or a pushover will be much more unpopular than one who is open, honest, decisive, and courageous. Team members need to know that they have a strong leader; a leader they can trust to fight for their best interests. By the way, please don’t confuse strength with gruffness or rudeness. Difficult information must be shared cordially; not dictated brusquely. Don’t be afraid; powerful servant leadership will make you popular beyond your wildest dreams!
Great Leadership is hard work! Are you up to it?
By the way: If you are not in a designated leadership position, remember that we are all leaders from time to time. Feel free to pass this article along to your managers…they might thank you!
All the Best!
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