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

Manage your emotions when you make leadership decisions

How to Manage Your Emotions When You Make Leadership Decisions

Do you struggle to manage your emotions? You’re not alone.

We were speaking to an international gathering of leaders from across Europe when a young man approached the microphone and asked: “How, as a leader, do you keep your personal feelings from clouding your decision making?”

It’s a brave question because it’s vulnerable. He recognized the power of his emotions and their power to limit his leadership.

Can you relate? Have you ever made a poor leadership decision because you were scared? Worried what people would think? Didn’t want to be embarrassed?

I know I have.

Manage Your Emotions – Don’t Eliminate Them

Let’s be real: you can’t separate your personal feelings from your decision-making – nor should you.

For example, compassion is a personal feeling and I hope that you always lead and make decisions with compassion for your team and your customers.

We need leaders to do the work machines can’t do. That includes human decisions that account for more than what’s on the spreadsheet. Please, don’t lose your humanity.

That said, your feelings can also prevent you from making healthy leadership decisions.

When that happens, it’s often because:

A) You’re hurt (eg: an employee disrespected you and your first impulse is to act from anger)

or

B) You’re trying to avoid pain (eg: the pain of embarrassment or rejection).

How to Manage Your Emotions With Perspective

In the first scenario, when you’re hurt by a disrespectful employee, the key to manage your emotions is to understand that it’s not about you. They likely did not wake up that morning wondering “How can I really hurt my boss today?”

It’s more likely that they are insecure, in a poor fit, or there is some other reason that caused the behavior. You may not know why they did what they did, but when you take a moment to de-personalize their behavior and remember that it’s not about you, that they’re dealing with their own reality, it will help calm your flight or fight emotions.

Then you can focus on your job: to help get them back on track – or into a better fit.

Frame Your Problems

In the second scenario, where you’re facing pain like the risk of embarrassment or rejection, there are two techniques that can help you get perspective.

First, ask yourself which set of problems you want to have. There’s no problem-free scenario. Leadership is a conscious choice to embrace problems and to solve them.

Leadership: It’s not IF problems, but WHICH problems.

When you remind yourself that you have a choice, you prevent victim thinking from setting in. eg: “Do I want the problem of being disliked (that comes with removing a poor performer) or do I want the problem of a team performing poorly (that comes with allowing a poor performer to stay)?

You’re not a victim. You have a choice to make. Framing your choices gives you power and you’re less likely to want to hide from the pain.

Connect to What Matters Most

The second way to face emotional pain is to reconnect with your leadership values.

Eg: “I want the team to grow and succeed” or “I value results and relationships.”

Then ask a “How can I…” question to get you aligned with what you value.

Eg: “How can I do what is in the best interest of the team?” or “How can I focus on results and relationships in this situation?”

Asking a good “How can I…” question re-engages the thinking part of your brain and relaxes the powerful emotions that can push you in a different direction.

Your Turn

Effective leaders channel their emotions into healthy relationships with their team while putting aside their limited self-interests in favor of what will be best for the team in the long run.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts or best technique to prevent emotions from limiting your leadership.