Leading is Hard Work

leading is hard work

When I facilitate leadership development sessions or coach leaders, I often hear, “That sounds like a lot of work.” My response, “Leading is hard work.  This doesn’t mean that being a high-performing leader requires you to be the one with the fullest schedule, work the longest hours, or stack your plate full of additional assignments.

It does mean doing the hard work of developing yourself and those around you. There is no magic bullet to becoming a better leader.

Assess Yourself First 

To develop your own leadership skills, and the skills of your team, you must be aware of strengths and weaknesses – both your own and those of the leaders you’re developing. For example, a leader might be more adept at praising team members but struggle with providing constructive criticism or dealing with conflict. Another leader might be able to tackle conflict head-on but is less mindful about celebrating success. 

One of the best ways to objectively identify strengths and weaknesses is through assessments such as the ones below that we use in our leadership development work. 

  • Everything DISC 363 is a 360-degree view of a leader’s approach to the interpersonal aspects of leadership. This assessment incorporates feedback from the leader’s manager, peers, and direct reports around 8 leadership approaches and 24 practices where a leader needs to have at least a minimal level of mastery to be most effective. This assessment will identify which approaches and practices where a leader is strongest, and which ones he or she needs to more fully develop. Plus, leaders get three priorities they can focus on for immediately improving leadership effectiveness. 
  • Everything DiSC Work of Leaders is a self-assessment that evaluates a leader’s natural tendency toward 18 best practices for creating a vision, gaining alignment, and championing execution.  
  • CheckPoint 360° Survey combines feedback from direct reports, peers, supervisors, and even others who work with your leaders to help leaders and managers improve their performance and deliver on strategic goals. Survey results highlight a manager’s performance across eight management competencies: communication, leadership, adaptability, task management, relationships, production, development of others, and personal development. 

Develop a New Perspective and Understanding

There are four key considerations we need to understand and keep in mind when we take on the task of developing and mentoring leaders. 

  • Change causes confusion. Successfully creating change and achieving goals reflects more about how good we are at leading, rather than how good our team is at following. If we want our employees to successfully learn new skills, take on new tasks, and grow into new roles, we have to be motivated to help them through the adjustment period.
  • The leader’s skills impact their employees’ ability to change. If, as a leader, you don’t have the skills to develop, coach, and train your employees, they will struggle with change. Before implementing change, we must make sure we have the skills to coach our employees, as well as the patience and commitment to see the process through to a successful outcome.
  • Learning a new skill takes time and repetition. If you’ve ever gone to a gym, you know you won’t build muscle or see a big difference after the first workout. Similarly, when an employee takes on a new task or role, they need training, development, and repetition to be able to perform. When we don’t provide these things, we’re setting employees up to fail and setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we want someone to succeed, we must invest time and training to help them do so.
  • Success is more about the leader’s motivation, not about the motivation of the people they lead. As leaders, it is critical that we look at our own motivation before we start questioning our employees’ motivation. Newton’s first law states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. In other words, if you want your team to change, you have to change first.

Position Yourself to Lead

Leadership is less about positioning yourself for your own benefit, and more about positioning yourself for others. When you do this, you’ll naturally set yourself and others up for continued success. Here’s how to do that. 

  • Decide it’s worth it. Being an effective leader starts with mindset. It requires us to change our approach and develop new habits. We will only be willing to do that hard work if we believe the reward is worth the effort.
  • Develop emotional intelligence. Awareness and emotional intelligence are vital to your strengths as a leader. In fact, research shows that leaders who lack emotional intelligence (EQ) may unintentionally cause friction in the workplace because they lack the agility to navigate and lead others through change. It’s important to develop awareness and emotional intelligence both in yourself and in those you are leading.
  • Build habits one at a time. All the skills and competencies I’ve mentioned in this article don’t come naturally to anyone. We all of strengths in some of these areas that we naturally bring to the table. Others will not come naturally, and we have to develop them as habits. This takes time, patience, and repetition. Some may eventually come more easily while others may require extra effort for the rest of our life. 

Here’s an example of how positioning yourself to lead can play out in the workplace. Two of the best leadership practices are simultaneously giving praise for good work and addressing problems. Most people are good at either one or the other. In order for someone to become better at the weaker skill, they must first decide it’s worth the time and effort to change. Then, they must be aware of what they need to do to change, and they must make a habit of building the new skill. 

The bottom line: Leadership is hard work. As people leaders and developers, we have to be willing to develop self-awareness, invest in changing ourselves first, and build skills that will help us grow ourselves and others. The reward is better results, less struggle and stress, and seeing your employees grow and develop into leaders themselves. 

Ready to become an even more effective leader or help those you lead develop as leaders?

Contact us to explore how our leadership development programs may be a fit for you and your team.

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