Leadership is Rarely Smooth and Easy

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.

In addition, it is important to remember that 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 so you, as a leader, are (or should be) 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. And our leadership style must therefore be highly dynamic, never static.

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.

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. Different context. 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.

Just remember to give yourself a break once in a while. That’s my point today. I know lots of leaders, myself included, who aspire to “play” their leadership game 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.

Don’t forget to give yourself a break once in a while. That is often the most important advice we can give each other, at any time of year, but especially at the holidays.

Have a great day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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One response to “Leadership is Rarely Smooth and Easy”

  1. Mark James Fader says:

    Outstanding message – Thank You Dean!


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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.