what no one tells you about leading

What No One Tells You About Leading But You Desperately Need to Know

Leading is tough enough without ignoring these critical truths.

“I wish someone would have told me some of this before I started leading. Life would have been so much easier. I bet my team wishes I knew it too.”

We hear this sentiment after almost every leadership workshop or keynote speech we deliver. And we get it – we wish we had access to all these leadership tools and strategies earlier in our careers. That’s why we built them, and are so passionate about sharing.

But you know as well as we do, leading well isn’t JUST about mastering tools and techniques. It’s a mindset.

So today we bring you six leadership realities we wish we learned sooner.

6 Leadership Realities  to Ground Your Leadership

1. Everyone is a volunteer.

Control is an illusion. You don’t control anyone or anything except for yourself. Everyone you work with chooses what they’ll do and how they’ll do it. Yes, your team is paid and if they choose not to perform at a certain level, they can lose their job – but that’s still their choice.

When you remember everyone is a volunteer you know that the effort you want your people to give is their choice. Sure, you get to influence that choice. When you recognize that everyone chooses what they do, it transforms their work into a gift, and that changes everything.

2. You’re in the hope business.

This is one of the most neglected truths about leading a team. Leadership is the belief that if we work together we can have a better tomorrow. Together we can do more, be more, and add more value to the world.

That’s a big deal.  It might be the biggest deal of all.

And some of the time your team will be stressed and discouraged, your job is to help them find the hope.

Without hope, you’re done. When your team has hope, you have a chance.

3. Change isn’t a choice.

When you’re leading you’ll never have it handled.

There are moments of dazzling teamwork where everyone aligns and you achieve more than you ever thought possible. But next week, one of those team members moves away or technology changes or your competitor does something different that you can’t ignore. Now you’re working hard again to create the next future.

Leadership is a journey where are no final destinations. At some point, you will leave your team – hopefully, in the capable hands of leaders whom you’ve invested in and developed. In the meantime, whatever you did last week opened the door for the new challenges and change you will face this week.

4. Effective or right?

Many new leaders (and more than a few experienced leaders) get stuck because they cannot see past their own “rightness” and do the things that will help them achieve results and build relationships.

For example:

“Why should I have to tell them again…I said it once.”

Yes, you did – three months ago. People have many priorities competing for their attention. If it’s important, communicate it multiple times in multiple ways.

“Why should I encourage/thank them? they’re just doing their job.”

Yes, they are. Yet people are more engaged when they feel appreciated and are seen as a human being, not just a cog in a machine.

“Why should I hear opposing viewpoints? I’m an expert in this subject and I’ve looked at all the options.”

Yes, you are and we’re sure you did a thorough analysis, but if you want your team to be committed to the idea, their voices need to be heard. Besides, you might be surprised by someone else’s perspective.

If you want to achieve results and increase your influence, look for places where you’ve clung to being “right.” Then let it go…and choose to be effective.

5. Harder isn’t smarter.

“Work smarter, not harder” is a cliché for a reason. More effort isn’t always the answer. Twelve hour days filled with back-to-back meetings may feel busy, but they’re not healthy, strategic, or ultimately productive.

When you’re leading, creating time to think and get perspective will often be far more valuable than pouring in a few more minutes of sweat equity. Once you’ve got motivated people and clear shared expectations, the changes that will do the most good often aren’t more effort, but better systems.

6. You are not alone.

Too many leaders suffer in lonely silence. You don’t have to. In fact, leading by yourself will limit your career and influence.

Effective leaders connect with people. Connect with your colleagues and invest in one another’s success. Connect with your team and they’ll make you better. Connect with mentors or coaches to grow. Connect with a community of leaders for support and encouragement.

Your Turn

When you build on a strong foundation, leading is more rewarding and you’re more effective. Leave us a comment and share a foundational truth or mindset that has served you well.


Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Capacity, Winning Well and tagged , , , , , , , .

Karin Hurt David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help leaders achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. They are keynote leadership speakers, trainers, and the award-winning authors of Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates (Harper Collins Summer 2020) and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. Karin is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive, elected official, and president of Let's Grow Leaders, their leadership training and consulting firm.

9 Comments

  1. Amen to this idea!
    “Yes, they are. Yet people are more engaged when they feel appreciated and are seen as a human being, not just a cog in a machine.”

  2. Phyllis, Thank you so much. Genuine appreciation and connection make such a huge impact, and we’re always surprised how often this is missing. Really appreciate you expanding the conversation.

  3. Ms. Hurt, Mr. Dye: I am not in a leadership role, but I still get so much out of your posting and I am truly grateful. I use what I learn to connect to my colleagues whether in a higher or same level — they all matter. Everyone deserves the same respect and appreciation. Thank you for sharing. My boss and I love to read, so your book(s) is(are) most likely going to be gifted in the future! Thanks

    • Lydia, thank you so much for those kind words. We are always delighted to know when the tools we share make a difference. We are grateful for you as well!

  4. “Everyone is a volunteer”. WOW! I had such an A-HA moment when I read that statement. Looking at effort as a gift rather than something to measure will allow me to be a more effective leader. I sometimes make unfair comparisons when looking at performance and effort. Realizing that effort looks different for each individual person is a valuable lesson. Thank you for a great post!

    • Amber, so glad to hear that was helpful. You are most welcome. Effort varies in so many ways – recognizing the gifts each person has to contribute is pivotal. Thank you for the insights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.