People in all walks of life from large multi-nationals, the voluntary sector, education and small communities take on many challenges when they take up leadership reins. But do they really know what they are letting themselves in for and are they ready for what lies ahead?
New Leaders especially want to get on with visioning, making motivational presentations and setting targets but it’s often the far less exciting aspects that they have to get to grips with first.
Dealing With Awkward People
Just because you’re given the label of “Leader” doesn’t automatically mean that everyone you encounter agrees with everything you say and does what you ask them to. It can be quite the opposite at times, especially if you are new into a position and you now have people in your team who were in for your job too. Leaders communicate messages with everything they do and also with what they don’t do. People will look out for what is said and the way it is said to try to find under-lying meanings. The temptation to over-manage the communication to ensure consistency can be great but there has to be a happy balance with some of the true personality of a leader coming through.
Constant Pressure For Success
Shareholders, investors, senior managers, in fact almost anyone you can think of will be looking to you as the leader to deliver success. Success means something very different in different sectors but whatever it is you will be expected to work towards it at all costs. It doesn’t matter what distractions and difficulties you have to navigate those ‘interested parties’ will judge your leadership qualities (if they are interested in them at all) by how you deal with difficulties AND deliver success.
Infuriating Regulations and Processes
All industries and businesses have regulations and rules that they have to be adhered to. Companies and public sector bodies have their own internal processes which are there to meet specific needs, often in response to external regulation, although not always. For leaders who want to make a difference and take their company or team forward these can seem like straight-jackets minimizing or preventing changes being implemented. The leader needs to look through the range of processes and regulations that frustrates them and carefully select only those that they have a chance of influencing and changing for the better.
There’s No Turning Off
Any person in a leadership position is in that position 24/7 whether they like it or not. How they act and behave at all times, even when away from work will be seen as an indication of something. With social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook being able to spread news about an individual’s activities around the world in seconds the savvy leader needs to be extremely careful at all times. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be down-time, there must be, otherwise even the most energetic and driven individual will burn-out.
All The Responsibility But…
Being in a position of leadership brings with it all the authority you need to do the job. Having said this, more often than not the leader ends up having less authority than they might imagine. A new leader in a large organization will soon appreciate the age-old dilemma of having all the responsibility but not having the authority to go with it. Even CEOs of large enterprises and small business owners have to work within certain constraints; laws for example. They can’t just do anything they want although some have tried and ultimately failed.
Knowing The Answer To Everything
No-one knows the answer to every question even if they appear to offer an opinion on everything under the sun. Nor should anyone expect a leader to know everything about the intricacies of their part of the business. After all, a leader is there to lead and that entails looking outwards and engaging with people and organizations outside of their own business. Delegation is part of the answer but that requires the leader to understand what they don’t know and building a team around them to fill in the gaps (and being willing to ‘let go’). It also means the leader has to let others develop and take responsibility for decisions which they are best placed to. That means standing back and not interfering and is far from easy for everyone.
So why on earth would anyone want to get into a leadership role given what a leader has to deal with day in day out? Some individuals strive to get into such positions and relish the challenges that come with the job and others quite unintentionally find themselves as a leader through no action themselves. However they get there and in whatever setting they are in, successful leaders are those that consciously deal with issues such as those above. They might benefit from leadership development programs, coaching and mentoring or training and education along the way but it must be them as individuals who develop their own leadership style over time.