In reality, a majority of what a leader does will never be lived out on a platform.
When we think of leadership, it’s usually the exciting, life-giving parts that come to mind. What we don’t often see are the things that are less than glamorous. Things like staying up late into the night hoping to get some perspective, aligning people with ideas, leading boards, and building great teams. In reality, a majority of what a leader does will never be lived out on a platform.
YOU ARE NOT A LEADER BECAUSE YOU ARE ON THE PLATFORM. YOU ARE ON THE PLATFORM BECAUSE YOU ARE A LEADER.
A leader must fulfill his or her role no matter the task or situation at hand. One of the most difficult things every leader must eventually do is say hard things to good people. It’s not fun, even when the conversation or decision is justified. Whether you're making an employment decision, choosing one person over another for a promotion, or helping someone who doesn't yet realize they need help, those conversations are never easy.
But I’ve learned to find my way through them by treating others the way I would want to be treated. I appreciate and value straight talk, even when the subject matter is uncomfortable. And I believe hitting a situation head on is a sign of respect. That helps me know how to react and what to say when I find myself hesitant to do so.
WHEN THE SITUATION ARISES, HAVE THE CONVERSATION.
Here’s why you need to push through your resistance and have the conversation:
Your job is to develop people. If you’re not having difficult conversations, you’re ignoring opportunities to help others grow.
You see the big picture the clearest. No one understands what’s ahead quite like you. Part of that is because you have more information than anyone. Part of that is just experience.
You think they won’t react well. Don't be afraid of how other people will respond. Most will handle straight talk better than you think.
BUT LET’S REFRAME YOUR THINKING. HAVING TOUGH CONVERSATIONS WITH GOOD PEOPLE CAN BE A VERY POSITIVE THING.
Doing so …
Gives someone feedback they won’t get anywhere else. Sometimes people just need to step back and see their behavior, decisions, commitments, or outcomes in light of a bigger backdrop to understand the significance of a decision, situation, or circumstance.
Demonstrates your commitment to their success. Most leaders never take the time to have tough conversations. Doing so will often show the other person your commitment to their success.
Identifies what needs to be changed. When you’re not sure what to do, it helps to know specific actions to take until your instincts change.
Saying hard things to good people won’t win you an award, get you featured in a magazine, or make the headline of tomorrow’s newspaper. But it will create space to influence the life of someone else in a way that could change their trajectory in a powerful way. And that is exactly what leadership is really all about.