Not everyone wants to be a leader. This is just as well, because not everyone is capable of being a leader.
This may seem a provocative statement to those of you who believe that we all have leadership potential within us. Well, maybe that’s true – however there is always a cost associated with converting potential into applied ability. And many people are simply not prepared to pay the price.
You may have seen examples in the world of sports, where young footballers, athletes, basketballers or tennis players are identified at an early stage as having “potential”. And yet subsequently they fail to fulfill their inherent potential because they are not prepared to pay the price necessary in terms of applying the extra commitment, discipline and focus needed to achieve success.
You may have come across people in your workplace who seem to possess some of the qualities needed for leadership. They demonstrate a good level of technical competence, they display a dedication to delivering quality outcomes for their clients, they get along well with their team-mates and they are respected for their honesty, authenticity and reliability.
These are all admirable qualities that we typically associate with good leaders (although there are many other leadership qualities people also look for in their leaders). However there can be significant additional costs, that even if you possess the necessary leadership qualities, you might not be prepared to pay ….
Five costs that can accompany leadership
- People look to you for the answers when things go wrong. This doesn’t mean that you have to have them, but it is often an unrealistic expectation that others can have. In reality, the effective leader is one who is more often a problem-solving facilitator rather than the problem-solver. When you’re in leadership, it’s about bringing the right people together so that a solution can be found. But if you think that you’ve got to be an expert in everything, then you’re going to get stressed big time! …… If you operate under the illusion that you’re meant to have all the answers, you will be placing enormous pressure upon yourself.
- There will almost always be someone who thinks they can do a better job than you. Sometimes, you’ll make a decision that even after consultation with the team and having support of the vast majority of team-members – there will be an individual who remains critical. Although a consensus outcome through consultation is ideal – in practice, it is extremely difficult to achieve. And so you have to be able to accept that someone is just waiting to say “I told you so” if the outcome of your decision proves to be less than perfect. ….. And there will be occasions when you do make the wrong call – and have to eat humble-pie. But that’s the thing- sometimes a decision has to be made, it just can’t be postponed or you don’t have time to do more investigation. And the buck stops with you……. Not everyone can cope with that responsibility.
- There can be an emotional toll, in terms of feeling responsible for the performance and well-being of your team-members. When you’re in leadership, you become responsible for the performance of the team. This might require you to hold an individual accountable if they are under-performing. And that requires you as the leader to possibly have a tough performance conversation with someone that in the past was a close team-mate, if not even friend, of yours. So being able to put aside the “friendship” and focus on the needs of the job can be a very difficult adjustment for those stepping into a leadership role.
- The need to project confidence and calmness during times of change, even though you yourself are feeling uncertain and anxious. Hey you’re human. You have your own insecurities, particularly when there is some re-structuring and turbulence going on in the organisation. Chances are that when you get home, you off-load with your partner or spouse about your own worries with job-security being threatened …… But as a leader with your team, you are expected to project some optimism about the future – and be able to focus the team efforts on meeting targets and getting the work out the door.
- You are under more scrutiny – people will be less forgiving of a leader’s indiscretion. When you’re simply one of the team, most people accept that you might have a bad day now and then. Perhaps you get a little irritated or short-tempered. Team-mates will mostly shrug it off. ….. But when you’re in a leadership role, they won’t be so patient or forgiving. The fact is people expect higher standards of behaviour from their leaders – and they will watch you much more closely and potentially evaluate your actions more critically.
So these can be some of the costs associated with stepping up into leadership. What then are some of the accompanying rewards that can make it worthwhile? …… One of these can be the opportunity to have a bigger impact and exercise a wider sphere of influence as a leader. There can also be the satisfaction that comes from building effective team-work and seeing others develop through your coaching and guidance. Of course there can also be improved material and financial rewards that derive from making a bigger contribution to the organisation’s success.
But at the end of the day, if you’re considering taking on leadership responsibilities – just make sure your eyes are open to the likely challenges that you will face. And keep on learning – no matter how much experience you might gain over time, you can still keep improving. And on that final note, you might perhaps be interested in our Leadership Training Course
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