Leadership is tough. It’s especially tough when it involves people.
It is interesting, however, in my experience, how often the toughest decision is the smartest decision. It’s the one we know we need to make but it’s the hardest one to make. Every leader I know wants to be liked. They want to limit frustration among the people trying to follow. They want to be effective and for people to appreciate and value their leadership. Those are normal human desires.
And, making tough calls seems at times like they may jeopardize some of those things.
Yet, the ability and willingness to make the tough calls — and doing it well — is what often separates the successful leaders from the not so successful.
There are many examples of tough, but smart leadership decisions. You have your own. I’ll just share a few of mine that come to mind.
7 examples of some tough but smart leadership decisions:
If the answer is going to be no. Don’t delay saying it. It’s easier to say “let me think about it” — or to delay saying no for a time, maybe even saying what they want to hear, but if you already know you’re eventually going to say no, the smarter decision — as tough as it is — is to say no now. It saves a lot of grief for you and other people. This includes saying no to good things so you can say yes to best things. One of the toughest calls for me as a leader is telling someone I can’t meet with them. I hate it. I want to accommodate everyone. But, I’ve learned that I’m not always the right person. I sometimes complicate things by getting in the way, and I am not very effective if I don’t prioritize my time. As tough as it is, leader, if you don’t protect your time to do the things you must do, everyone on your team will suffer. If the answer is no — just say no.
Instead of making excuses. Own the problem. I don’t know about you, but I can always find someone or something to blame. That’s easy. Tougher is to admit it. We blew it. We made a mistake. We messed up. And, if the fault is clearly mine — I MESSED UP! People appreciate honesty. It’s smarter, by far, to be transparent than to always pass the buck.
When you aren’t sure what to do next? Admit it. I’ve learned there are usually people on the team who have some ideas that can help me if I’m humble enough to ask. As tough as it is to admit you are in over your head, you’ll gain support by seeking input. Strange as it may seem, you actually add credibility to yourself as a leader.
If you’re about to crash. Raise the white flag. This one seems especially needed for pastors. No pastor I know — and frankly no leader — is comfortable admitting they are facing burnout. The fear is we would lose support. But, the smarter decision is to confide in someone who can help. Getting help before you crash allows you to finish the race. It would be better to limp across the finish line than to be taken out of commission for a permanent injury. Get help now if you need it!
Challenge the sacred cows. Every leader knows that change is hard. And, changing the things people say can’t be touched are the toughest changes. Truth be told, I’ve learned some of these aren’t as sacred as they appear. It was just that no one ever challenged them. But, I’ve also learned that if a leader shies away from change he or she knows has to take place — for the long-term good of the church or organization — everything will eventually become a “sacred cow”. All change — even small changes — will face opposition.
Release your right to get even. That’s so tough — isn’t it? Because holding a grudge is much easier than offering forgiveness. Leadership involves power and every leader is tempted at some time to use that power in revenge. Don’t do it. It never proves smart in the end. A leader is severely injured in ability to attract loyal, trusting followers — who have the potential of becoming leaders — if he or she is ever seen as one who gets even. That leader may have followers, but they’ll turn on a dime against the leader when given a chance.
Take a risk on an unproven person. Good leaders like to surround themselves with competent people. Experience makes life easier for all of us. But, some of the best leadership discoveries I have made came with untested people. We took a risk. Giving a young pastor a chance before they graduate from seminary has proven to be some of my riskiest and yet wisest moves.
Those are 7 examples of tough, but smart decisions I have to make in leadership.
Which of these tough decisions do you need to make today?
Do you have any you’d share with me?