Leadership is Thankless

thankless leadershipLeadership is about doing what is right, not what is easy, and it can quickly become a thankless job. Especially if people don’t agree with what we have to do in our role as leader. We may, in fact, harm someone by the choices we make. In fact, anything you do might hurt someone just as much as it helps someone else. So how do we know when we’re doing the right thing if a choice has collateral damage?

Well, if you’re unsure, ask yourself this question: How am I treating people?  

When your decisions and choices are singular, isolated, self-serving or serving a minimum few on the whole of the people you are responsible for, then you may need to put yourself in check. When you see people as tools to accomplish your goal, regardless of who gets hurt, when others become ‘expendable’ for a sake of your destination, it’s time to check yourself. There is a big difference between leading people and using people. But when you respect the people around you, when you recognize the risks for them as well as yourself and do your level best to mitigate that risk, when you can honestly say, “this choice is about US, not ME,” when you’re building up those that don’t have your level of power, influence or position, and seeking their input, make choices that include their benefit — that’s when you are likely making the right decision, even if, in the end, some get hurt.

If you’re doing this for the thanks, for the acclaim, for the pat on the back about how great you are as a leader, you’re missing the point about leadership. Because when you’re doing your actual best work, it is distinctly possible you won’t get the acclaim at all — and highly possible your people will get all of it. Of course, it’s more likely that you will all get it together, because what leaders do better than anything else is build teams that stand together, work together, laugh together, struggle together. Real leadership knows that everyone is valuable and has a personal experience of you as a leader. Leadership, after all, is personal. People take it personally how they are led. Lead so they have a positive experience of you.