Almost all leaders struggle with some core issues related to their leadership. Maturing in our leadership role requires us to resolve these core issues and manage them – if we cannot fully deal with them.
The first is the need to be loved and accepted. This is a universal need of course, but leaders who need to be loved and accepted by those they lead set themselves up to fail. Good leadership is about calling others to something higher than themselves. That will mean creating discontent in the status quo which will inevitably mean that leaders will not always be popular or loved. In addition, a need to be loved by those we lead makes it difficult to push into areas of needed growth by our subordinates. Fear of being unpopular will keep me from pushing into difficult subjects and difficult issues.
Remember, there are many ways to fulfill our need for love and acceptance: God, spouse, family, friends, and even our dog. But for a leader, while being loved by those we lead is a perk it is not always going to happen. Counterintuitively, respect comes to a leader when they have been willing to call the organization to a higher purpose, often against the grain of the status quo.
A second and critical issue all leaders must deal with is to train our minds and emotions to not take issues personally. We need to see issues as separate from us and allow free discussion regarding those issues without taking it personally. In fact, the warning signal that we are taking it personally is that we become defensive – which means that we have made the issue about us and thus feel a need to defend our position. Once we have made the issue about us, if we don’t get our way, we lose and none of us like to lose.
What usually loses when we make issues personal is the mission we are going after. If we can learn that the mission is not about us and to depersonalize differences of ideas and strategies, we will be able to invite the best of people’s thinking and remain free from defensiveness. Any time we are feeling defensive we have allowed the issue to be about us rather than the mission.
And then there is the issue of pride: thinking that my views are the best and my answers better than those of others. The problem with pride is that it becomes a filter through which we see life and leadership and the filter is faulty. It keeps us from hearing the truth when others share it, fools us into thinking that we are right when we are not and prevents our own growth and development.
Wise leaders, therefore cultivate trusted relationships where they can get honest feedback, cultivate an open atmosphere on their team where all ideas can be put on the table and cultivate introspection to ensure that they are developing humility over pride.
All three of these core issues for leaders need to be paid attention to all the time. Being able to manage them brings freedom, growth and allows us to lead from a healthier place.