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Why Is Leadership So Hard?

Welcome back! 

How have these first two months of the year been treating you? We ask because we know that in leadership while kicking off the year can be energizing and productive, it can also be stressful. So, we’re checking in to let you know that leadership is hard, and that it’s okay to feel a little overwhelmed. 

What, exactly, makes leadership hard? While there’s no one answer to that question, there is a dominant one, and we’re here to unpack it. Are you ready to dive in? 

Why is Leadership So Hard?

Sometimes it’s difficult to hold others accountable, even though you know it’s the right thing to do.

Claressa: In addition to teaching about leadership, we also do a lot of hands-on leadership, both in real-time as well as training and coaching others. We’ve found that while some components of leadership are innate, other things can be really difficult. So what’s your take on the tough stuff? What makes leadership so hard?

Martha: Well Claressa, as you know, one of my personality indicators is “feeling,” and some of my strengths include “empathy” and “developer.” This means that in everything I do and every decision I make, I am always looking at the people involved and the impact it will have on others. Sometimes it’s difficult to hold others accountable, even though you know it’s the right thing to do because it hurts or affects them in a way that makes them feel bad.

Claressa: But that’s just part of being a good leader, right? So how do you overcome that hesitation?


Hurt vs. Harm

Sometimes the decisions we make hurt other people — their feelings or ego — but that is very different than causing them harm.

Martha: I was recently listening to a presentation by Dr. Henry Cloud. He’s a Christian-based psychologist and has several books out, including Boundaries and Necessary Endings. He talked about the idea of hurt versus harm in leadership, and it really settled something for me — gave me a sense of calm from a leadership perspective. It’s the idea that sometimes the decisions we make hurt other people — hurt their feelings or their ego — but that is very different than causing them harm.

A good trainer, for example, may put an athlete through various activities that will make them sore and may cause hurt but will ultimately make them a better athlete. A good trainer isn’t going to harm their athlete by causing injury.

The same can be said of a good leader. For employees to learn and grow, you may have to correct behaviors or misstep. 

Claressa: And again, this is for teaching, and ultimately makes them better — personally, professionally, and often both.

A good leader cannot be afraid of the mess.

Martha: Absolutely. When holding staff accountable, a good leader never wants to cause harm to that employee or have them learn a lesson improperly. You still have the opportunity to build people up rather than tear them down with a tough lesson. While you should never want to intentionally hurt someone, a good leader cannot be afraid of the mess. They need to recognize that it isn’t always pretty, but that the hurt is always for the betterment of the individual or team.

Claressa: What I’m hearing you say is that sometimes the hurt is worth it because everyone has growing pains, right?


The Takeaway

Martha: Helping others grow is a big responsibility, and every situation is different. Not everyone has both the skills and the desire to lead others because sometimes there is hurt and messiness involved. But if you remember the why behind the lesson you’re teaching, you always have the opportunity to do it in a way that is not harmful and can, in fact, better the lives of those around you.

COMMENTS (6 Comments)

  • Elaine

    Delaying a difficult conversation always results in more issues. The hurt versus harm can make going into the conversation a little easier, because it helps you to focus on the results you want, which is change and growth.

    • Abbie

      You are right! Thank you for your comment!

  • Pam riggins

    Loved what you all said. Helped me in a situation I had to deal with that was difficult. Thank you for this insight!! Really helped me as a manager.

    • Abbie

      Thanks for your comment, Pam! We are so glad we were able to provide some insight that assisted you during a tough time.

  • Ron Hutchins

    Sometimes one of the hardest things about real leadership is knowing when it’s time to let someone else share or assume leadership. A good leader knows and recognizes the talents of the people around them; how to foster and develop leadership skills and utilize their talents to the best possible outcome for the health and overall success of the entity. Surrounding yourself with vastly talented people is the best of what a great leader does.

    • Abbie

      Very well said! Delegating and trusting your team goes a long way in leadership. You’ve got to let people shine!