Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sometimes You Gotta Do What a Leader Must Do

Sometimes you are getting into situations you don’t particularly enjoy. And you wonder and say to yourself “when did I ask for that shit to happen?”. And everyone looks at you. Observing how you react or act. Listening to every word you say. Watching every move and decision you make. And it’s never a popularity contest. And those around you are glad that they don’t have to do it. Leadership first and foremost takes character.
Sometimes you gotta do what a leader must do.
Sometimes you have to fire people
One of the issues leaders only reluctantly talk. One of the issues leaders are not prepared and trained for in proper ways. I still remember the first one I had to fire. A very nice person. Educated, with a sense of humor. Someone fun to be with … when you would hang out with friends in a bar. Yet, as intelligent as he was, he simply didn’t perform. And as a result others had to do a big part of his work. Something you cannot tolerate as a leader. Hence, I had make a decision and fire him. And it felt tough. I spent several hours with him making him aware of the situation. Even he recognized that there was no other way. He simply didn’t like his job at all. I felt relieved when it was done. And it also was a boost to morale for the team.
Yet, this was nothing in comparison to what was about to come. The country went into a profound and homemade crisis. The impact on everyone, on every company was severe. And suddenly we had to decide mass layoffs. How do you as a leader explain this to people? Knowing that they have no chance to get another job due to the overall situation. How do you explain to a father or a mother that they cannot support their kids, their family anymore? Can you imagine the suffering your decision creates? And how do you decide whom to lay off and who can stay? When I asked my boss and board member how to do that he said “That’s what we are paying you for to deal with.” Suddenly being the leader is a pretty lonely place. And yet, I had to do it. The survival of the company comes first. Damage control and then making the tough calls.
Sometimes you gotta do what a leader must do.
Sometimes you have to fire clients
We all know all too well difficult clients. And it’s never fun dealing with them. Clients not knowing what they want. Constantly changing direction. Last second calls and changes are the norm. Ongoing nasty discussion about whose fault it is. And it’s wearing down your team. And it comes to a point where it is unbearable for you, a decision must be made. The decision to fire a client. Most people are gun shy when it comes to that. Firing a client? No way! How can I possibly explain this to my bosses? And yet it must be done. It’s like eliminating a parasite. It’s good for the health of the company. Even though it’s another tough call.
Sometimes you gotta do what a leader must do.
Sometimes you have to fire yourself
You have built your team. You have had many successes together with them. You have brought out the best in each one of them. You have taught them everything you know. You have trained with them. You have given them everything. And suddenly you realize that there is nothing left. You realize that the time has come for someone else to lead your team. Someone with new, fresh ideas and approaches. Someone who can get them to the next level. That’s the time when you have to fire yourself and move on. Move on getting your own batteries charged again. Starting anew with a different challenge. It’s never easy to let go, but letting go you must. And it takes character.
Sometimes you gotta do what a leader must do.
Sometimes your own values are at jeopardy and you must decide
You have your own values. The things important to you. Close to your heart. These things you stand for and stand up for. The issues you raise and fight for. Whatever those might be. This is you. This is your integrity at stake. And you stand tall. That’s called character. And suddenly you are confronted with a client that does exactly the opposite of what you believe in and stand for. That puts your character to the test. What do you do now? For most people a tough choice to make. If they work anyway with such a client they lose their own credibility. Like preaching water to others and then drinking wine yourself. If they refuse to work with that client they might lose their job. A tough choice indeed. What’s more important to you? Your character and what you stand for or your job? How you do anything in life, you do everything in life.
Sometimes you gotta do what a leader must do.
Sometimes you gotta do what a leader must do.
As a leader you are often in similar situations as the few described above. And you have to choose between the easy way out or your character. Always remember your values and what you stand for. That distinguishes a leader. Having character is more important than anything else. For yourself and the people you lead. If you don’t live up to your values people will say that you are quite a character. And that means usually that you lack character. Guard your character, guard your reputation at any cost. Be a true leader doing what a leader must do. Everyone can handle nice weather. Your litmus test is always how you handle the tough situations. And how you handle it when your values are at stake. And you are closely watched.
Sometimes you gotta do what a leader must do.

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