This is part one of a multi-part blog series. If you are so inclined, I welcome your feedback.
I’ve been thinking about something lately that I can’t seem to get off my mind. It’s the idea that too few people write honestly about leadership. It’s all sunshine and rainbows, but not really. The truth is that leadership is incredibly hard. It is challenging, some days more than others, and it does not always feel great or good. Sometimes it can feel scary or unnerving and other times it can be purely exhilarating and full of joy. But nobody writes about the scary and unnerving times. It’s all about how to be great, how to lead with courage, how to set a great example for others to follow. Sure we all need encouragement and being positive is necessary, but sometimes I just want people to tell the truth about leading. It is tough, and the only way out of the tough parts is through. I’m not going to wait any longer for someone to be real and write about the rawness of leadership. I’m doing it. Here goes nothing. In this blog series, I’ll be writing about the hard parts of leadership because there are too many leaders who feel alone in their experiences because so many simply won’t tell the truth.
Nothing is more demoralizing than a leader who lacks authenticity. One who does the things they think they are supposed to do because they want to be sure they live up to the idea of leadership that others promote. During my time in leadership, being committed to being authentic has been a blessing and a curse. Some appreciate it. Others are uncomfortable with it, and usually they are uncomfortable with the opinions others have of them as well if they aren’t all glowing and positive. But the truth is that if you are a leader, you can guarantee that you will be criticized, not liked by some, and it will not feel good. I’m not writing to tell you that you should not care when others don’t care for you. I’m writing to tell you that it is normal to feel concerned when others criticize your decisions, your leadership style, etc. But that concern doesn’t have to be coupled with conformity. Want to get yourself in a rat race that you’ll never win? Try pleasing everyone. You’re sure to burnout fast. By doing what you believe to be the best thing for the people in your organization and those you serve, you lead. You stand on what you believe in and you accept the criticism where it is warranted and respect the differing opinions of others as leaders should. But make sure you don’t fall victim to losing your authenticity as a leader-what makes you….YOU.
In my experience, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and observe many leaders. Time and time again, I’ve watched folks lose themselves in their leadership. Either taken over by ego or reduced by a few loud voices of criticism, they begin to not even recognize themselves. While leadership and the experiences that come with it are sure to impact you, and if powerful enough maybe even change you, your core values must remain solid. The moment you find yourself shifting in what you believe to be right, just, and equitable for all, or consider taking action in a way that contradicts what you believe, you must reconsider your leadership journey. It could mean you aren’t in the right environment or it could mean you’ve allowed the pressures of leading rather than the privilege of leading to drive you. Because leadership is a privilege, and those who lead should never forget that. In those times when I have faced criticism, I’ve had to work to remain balanced and find the sweet spot between taking it too personally and disregarding it all together. It’s the middle ground of giving consideration where it is warranted, but not allowing it to produce a level of self-doubt that negatively impacts me and my ability to lead that has worked best for me. And finding that balance is a never ending journey.
Real leaders reckon with remaining authentic and true to themselves all the time. I am not sure why few share this experience and so many resort to telling the sugar coated stories of leading. My leadership journey, while full of great experiences, has equally been filled with sleepless nights, stressful days, anxious nerves, wonderings of regret, fearful and tearful moments and conversations, and more. That’s because leadership is hard. It is not easy, and it is especially not easy if your greatest goal is to be an authentic leader who accepts yourself, your flaws, your mistakes, your errors as well as you accept your accolades and accomplishments. This is a mammoth task. It requires a level of personal and professional security that is solid enough withstand the winds of change, the voices of criticism, and the uncertainty of it all.
But I am determined to be as authentic of a leader as possible. I’m not afraid to admit that leadership is the hardest task I have ever embarked upon, and it’s been a challenge at every level, big or small, school, district, or state. However, I recognize that what has kept me in it is remaining true to myself, my core values, and real in my relationships with others. That is the stabilizing force in the journey-the authenticity- of it all. I implore others who lead to join me in telling the truth about leadership. It will help all of us.
Until next time, be you. Be true! Be a hope builder!