Who knew…leading (well) is hard

Sometimes we feel like the donkey. Don’t forget to sometimes be the tourist in the background enjoying the view! Photo by Charlie Marusiak on Unsplash

Sometimes we feel like the donkey. Don’t forget to sometimes be the tourist in the background enjoying the view! Photo by Charlie Marusiak on Unsplash

I’ve been having a few conversations with leaders recently and one thing that has been coming up is that leading is hard work!

When we look at what is required in a leadership role, it becomes evident how hard a role it is (assuming that you want to do a good job of it). We are a human (complex, unique and always changing) leading other humans (complex, unique and always changing) in an environment that is complex and always changing.

If you are a First Time Leader, you may also be trying to get your head around the expectations of leadership while maintaining your individual output and in most cases feeling like you aren’t fully supported to do it. All of this tends to be happening at a pace that is increasing so feel like we can never catch up.

When we look at that, what surprises me is that this still surprises us that leading is hard. I’m amazed that we don’t have these honest conversations more as leaders – especially with First Time Leaders. It brings to mind one of my favourite song lyrics …

“Nobody said it was easy, no-one ever said it would be this hard…Oh, take me back to the start”

More than one leader recently has said to me “I want to be able to just worry about myself and not have a team anymore”. This is a valid and understandable response. If this is really the case, pursuing a technical role without people leadership may be the best path for you as well as those that you work with. Before you fire off that email, it may be worth considering the following. What I suspect is really happening when leaders say it’s hard is that:

  • They knew it would be hard, but not as hard as they are finding it at the moment

  • They are seeking some respite from an apparently unrelenting workload

  • They have forgotten the good stuff about leading

I’m not immune from this. The path that I have chosen to follow is not an easy one and sometimes I wish for an easier road! It’s in these times that I need to remind myself of why I have chosen this path (it’s the most positive and lasting difference that I can make) and that it was always going to have hard times. I also need to remind myself of the good days – like a workshop yesterday when a participant was reflecting on how the program has helped her “get really clear on what she offers as a leader and nail an interview for an internal promotion”. I also need to make time for the activities that let me recharge – time with friends and family, exercise and sleep are a few of mine.

What I do know is that leadership (done well) is an enriching experience for everyone involved – the leader themselves, their team and the organisations that they work within. None of this is easy – but nobody said it was! Here are a few things that you might consider when things get hard:

  1. What is a moment that you are proud of as a leader?

  2. What difference have you made in the work, career or of others?

  3. How are you recharging yourself so that you can turn up as a good version of you?

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