Have you ever had one of those weeks (or months) that made you want to pull your hair out? You know, those times when the aggravation of wrestling with a critical issue weighs you down like a wet blanket . . . when you think you’re doing all the right things and yet the solution remains just beyond your grasp. Yep, me too. It’s one of the shadow sides of leadership that rarely gets discussed, but — and here’s the good part — I think is actually an indication of a strong leader rather than an inept one.
For those of you wondering what exactly would lead me to make such a claim, let me offer a few examples.
- The best leaders not only cast a clear vision, they are also committed to helping their people get there. Aligning a diverse mix of people to move collectively toward a common goal can at times feel a bit like herding cats. It’s never as quick or easy as it looks on paper. You might have to repeat the same thing fourteen times. You respond to what people heard, which is could be quite different from what you said. People may, consciously or not, behave in ways that undermine your efforts. And so you ask, you listen, you respond, you take a deep breath and repeat. The fact that there will be days your hair is at risk does not change the long-term positive impact of taking this approach.
- The best leaders value diverse perspectives, and are open to looking at challenges from multiple angles. Vigorous, respectful discussion is often critical to arriving at the best decision. If a leader feels strongly about a direction/solution/project, it can be difficult to hear skepticism, or outright opposition, to that path (enter urge for hair-pulling). The willingness to hear such concerns, however, almost always results in greater buy-in from the team, and better results for the organization.
- The best leaders understand the need to balance urgency and patience. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. Spending more time on the front end will often allow you to move more quickly on the back end. Understanding and respecting this concept, however, does not mean there won’t still be days where the scale tilts toward urgency and the leader finds her hand drifting toward her scalp.
No one ever said that leadership would be easy. And somehow, knowing that frustration is part of the process — rather than some failure or character flaw on the part of the leader — makes it easier to move through the tough parts to get to the solution on the other side, full head of hair still intact.