The 5 Perils of Leadership

Guest post from Miles Anthony Smith:

If we go into management to earn more, have more power/prestige,
and work less, we are either naïve or ignorant. (And let’s admit right now that
those are
precisely the reasons most of us go into management.)

1. Prepare to be Hated

Wise leaders accept that some decisions will be unpopular. If
you can’t handle others’ disapproval, then leadership probably isn’t for you.
Trying to be everyone’s friend is a futile and selfish effort. Most of us want
to be liked; as we progress through school, we do things to get others to
accept us (with varying levels of success). We try to wear the cool clothes,
have a cool car, or take the cool classes. We then carry those bad habits into
the workplace; we do things to attain the approval of others, allowing true
accountability to wither. Some of us want so desperately to be accepted that we
will sacrifice the good of the rest of the organization for our own selfish
emotional gain. While it might help in the short-term, the pursuit of approval
is a guarantee of long-term failure. Those who don’t throw their leadership
opportunities away in pursuit of approval will be teased at best; at worst,
they will be ridiculed, mocked, and defamed. So prepare to be hated, but
remember that the haters are the ones who don’t matter. The ones who do matter
will sincerely appreciate your leadership and implicitly trust your guidance,
since you have proven your constancy and trustworthiness.

2. Conquer Your Fears

In life, but especially in leadership positions, we all face
fears. We fear not being accepted, feelings of inadequacy, shame, rejection,
discomfort, and the list goes on. My response (and I am speaking to myself more
loudly than others) is, “We’re all afraid . . . so what!” We must choose to get
over our fears and not allow them to hinder our growth and development as
leaders. So what if we don’t have it all together. So what if we didn’t go to
the right school; so what if we didn’t have a good mentor. We all have something
to offer, and we must choose to focus on what we do have to offer, not what we
don’t. And remember the dirty little secret is that those who are acting like
they have it all together really don’t.

3. Betrayals are Par for the Course

One thing that fuels fears about the future is past betrayals,
and betrayal is one of the ultimate tests of leadership. Are we willing to walk
in forgiveness with those who betray or seem to have betrayed us? Are we going
to wall ourselves off from future close relationships with others, or are we
going to allow intimate relationships with others that ultimately might mean
another betrayal? I do recommend that we are wise in this, not allowing
obviously dysfunctional people close to us, but we can’t use that as an excuse to
not be vulnerable. I admit that forgiving betrayal is difficult for me, but I
must choose to let those circumstances go, since unforgiveness only hurts me,
not the other person. I would rather choose to remain vulnerable and be taken
advantage of than be so skeptical of others that I have no intimate

4&5: Get Comfortable with Discomfort & Vulnerability

Leaders also get to be uncomfortable; it’s part of the job
description. At one point, I resigned from a position with a company and had
the choice to leave without talking to anyone or come back the next day and
give my leaders some closure. As painful and emotional as I knew it would be, I
chose the latter and am glad I did. As leaders, we don’t have the luxury of
shirking painful responsibilities even though we would like to. Leadership is
not necessarily safe but can be perilous to our career; it involves much more
risk than just being a team member. Our actions as leaders are held to a much
higher standard, and criticism of our leadership decisions is much more out in
the open for everyone to see. Simply being a team member allows more anonymity
for the quality of work and decisions made. If things don’t work out in
leadership, that person usually doesn’t have the opportunity to move to another
position within the company like a non-manager does.

The Bottom Line

So if the perils of leadership are hatred, discomfort, vulnerability, fear, and
betrayal, why should anyone lead? This world desperately needs leaders who
aren’t afraid of the discomfort that is required of leadership and will do the
gnarly job of putting the needs of others first, not their own selfish
interests. Without true selfless leadership, pride, ego, and self-interest will
destroy organizational, political, and societal culture. So I challenge us to
look for ways to coach and teach others that even though being “others
focused” is often painful in the short term, it is valuable and worthwhile
in the long run. I invite you to join me on this challenging, yet satisfying
leadership journey together.

About Miles Anthony

Born a Hoosier, raised an Okie, and currently residing in the
Frozen Tundra of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Miles Anthony Smith, a Gen X’er leader,
cares enough about organizational health to make the tough decisions, hire and
coach the right people, set clear expectations, develop a strong team culture,
and strengthen organizational cash flow, exhibiting both humility and fierce
resolve. His mission in life is “To Chart the Course, Pave the Pathway, and
Light the Lane for Others to Eclipse My Own Success in Leadership.”

He’s the author of
the new book Why LeadershipSucks: Fundamentals of Level 5 Leadership and Servant Leadership.