Why is Leadership so Difficult?

I’ve had the pleasure of being on vacation in a warm destination for the past ten days and have spent many hours lounging by the pool with one eye on my son and one ear eavesdropping on many conversations.

I’m always curious about people’s complaints about their work environments, especially about their leaders. Nothing beats real world research to bring clarity to issues. After ten days of listening to these comments, and at times engaging in the conversations, I am left boggled with how many leaders out there just don’t “get” leadership and what the impact of this is to their staff and their organizations.

I heard so many comments about leaders that spent all of their time telling and very little time listening, leaders that did not treat their teams with trust or respect and yet expected them to act in a professional manner, and story after story that can easily be covered with the phrase “that’s not my job” which just shouts lack of engagement…

Having spent close to 20 years in people leadership roles, I have definitely learned a lot over that time, and often wish I could go back and apologize to some of the first team members I worked with in my leadership capacity. It definitely took me a few years to sort out the difference between management and leadership… And a few bumps along the way to help speed up the learning curve.

Over the last many years, I’ve become convinced the we seem to be making leadership more complicated, with all the different leadership books, websites, courses etc.. When you boil it down to the basics, everything important falls under three key points:

1) set clear expectations
2) hold people accountable to the expectations
3) recognize the successes and coach forward to support the learning opportunities

As all of these observations were floating around my head today, I was intrigued to read the Harvard Business Review blog post by Tony Schwartz “Reward Value, Not Time,” which was like watching my thoughts flow out in word in front of me. His observations about moving through our fear of management (the need to see everyone in front of us in the workplace), and lead forward through trust to create value is something that I hope every people leader can tackle — the rewards are many. As a leader, all of a sudden you will find capacity to tackle other projects or opportunities when you are no longer managing the minutes in front of you. As a team member, more often than not, people grab hold of the newfound space and reach for the moon to prove their capabilities. The multiplier of these two simple changes results in increased organizational capacity, capabilities and outputs.

So let’s move away from the newest leadership book or trend and focus on those three simple foundational items to help us all move forward…

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