A test of leadership capacity is one’s ability to emotionally withstand the subtle and sometimes overt hostility to your leadership. So, how do sustaining leaders respond?
» BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR CALLING. Affirming your sense of call to this position for this time in the organization’s history is indispensable. This does not assume that your leadership is flawless, nor does it diminish the probability of other strategic options to accomplish the vision and mission while living out the values. Confidence is not arrogance. It is the self-assurance that you have done your due diligence in reviewing the brutal realities of today and the obstacles that get in the way of a new tomorrow. You are seeing the bigger picture that most do not have the time, interest, or information to fully consider. Leadership is having the certitude to set the course and get your team to work collaboratively with you toward calculated deliverables.
» CONFRONT THE OPPONENT. Do not allow the intentional use of critical humor or demurring actions to go unchallenged. A contrarian attitude and resulting opposition are like an infectious disease to every other team member. What opponents are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are doing it will undermine every effort to align and engage each team member toward shared outcomes. These dangerous conversations of confronting the opponent must happen privately and without delay. Take time to revisit the why. If they understand but do not agree, consider re-assigning them to a different team, project, or division. At last resort they may need to be released and replaced for the sake of the team and the outcomes.
» LISTEN WITH AN OPEN MIND. Leadership is a lifelong journey of developing the competencies needed in each season of organizational challenge. A sustaining leader is not the same leader today that they were last year. Criticism and challenge forces leaders to go back to the drawing board for review, reflection, and evaluation of assumptions. If there is a new insight that is relevant, then acknowledge it, give credit to the source, and revise the approach accordingly. Once you have really listened to the opposing voice and understand the motivation, then keep leading. The effort to appease all critics rarely pays off in getting to the goal in a way that everyone is eager to celebrate. Leaders are willing and able to pay the price of knowing that everyone will not like them or agree with their pathway to success. Leadership is never about popularity, but it is about respect in both directions. Popularity will come at your retirement party by those who have observed the consistency of your humility, your determination, your sacrifice, and your results.
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