All of us are leaders in one way or another. We all lead, either formally or informally, constantly or occasionally, officially or unofficially. But we all lead. This is a skill that everyone needs to know at least a little something about.
No two leadership situations are exactly the same, because every company, team and colleague represents a different organism, and every new situation represents a different challenge. And you, as a leader, are constantly evolving and changing as well. In other words, leadership is a constantly changing landscape, because the people and the situations we deal with are in a constant state of change… as are we.
Which means what, exactly, you ask? It means that it is really hard to get it right all the time. I am a huge sports fan, and a massive stat nerd. And I am always fascinated by the fact that an elite athlete still fails at their intended task most of the time. In baseball, if you get a hit 30% of the time over a long period, you have a decent shot of being elected to the Hall of Fame. Flip that around… if you fail less than 70% of the time, you are one of the all-time greats. Look around the world of sports, and you will see example after example of this reality. Being good at something doesn’t mean perfection all the time.
So too in business, and leadership. The constantly changing landscape of leadership means you can get it wrong a lot, and still be doing a good job. Leadership has always been hard. But I would posit that the business world of today presents greater challenges than ever before, because of the constant flow of information (which makes our employees, partners and vendors better informed than they have ever been); because of the rising tide of employee and customer expectations; because of a global environment that makes competition stronger and razor sharp. For lots of reasons, business has never been harder, and therefore business leadership has never been harder. Which means, even the best leaders won’t get it right all the time.
Back to the baseball example for a moment… while a 30% success rate gets you to the baseball hall of fame, it may not get you into the business “hall of fame.” No… I am not suggesting that a 70% leadership failure rate is what we should be shooting for. But I am suggesting, that you may read a situation entirely wrong, make a major miscalculation, forget to do something that becomes a really big deal, say the wrong thing, or in some way really screw things up. And even with all of that, it still may be appropriate to look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are doing a good job.
Leadership is hard. Success is not automatic. And when you are working with really smart, talented people, in a fast-moving, noisy world, it can be easy to get something wrong. In fact, it is almost a guarantee that you will. Doing a good job and being a good leader does not mean that everything is always smooth and easy. Anything worth doing rarely is.
Just remember to give yourself a break once in a while. I know lots of leaders, myself included, who aspire to playing at a really high level, and who get really disappointed in themselves when they fail to meet that standard. If your intentions are good, if you approach your leadership with good preparation, if you are open to feedback and are trying to improve all the time, then you will get it right more often than you will get it wrong. And that probably means you are doing a really good job.
Have a great day.
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