Don’t Expect to Lead Everyone Successfully
Are you disappointed in yourself because you aren’t able to lead a certain person or a group of people well? Perhaps you have little influence with your spouse or your family. Maybe you aren’t able to reach the team or organization you lead. I know the feeling. Like many who have had some success in leadership, I used to think that I could lead everyone successfully.
But this is just not true. While I always try to improve as a leader, I realize that sometimes my voice will not make much of a ripple.
If you follow my blog, you know that I wholly believe that we must grow so we can impact others. And if we are intentional to grow as leaders, we should find ourselves having a greater impact on our world. However, it is imperative that we also understand that we simply cannot lead everyone in every situation well.
Several years ago the organization I led was doing really well. I felt that I had great relationships with our people. However, there were two staff members who did not like me—at least, that’s how I felt. And it was obvious to me that as much as I tried, I simply did not have much influence on them beyond the fact that I was “the boss.” That’s a frustrating place to find ourselves as leaders.
I talk to parents of teens or young adults who feel powerless to impact their kids. And I talk to spouses who feel that they have the least amount of influence on their significant other than anyone else in their lives. For you, it may be at church, or the organization you volunteer for, or perhaps a business you were given the reigns over—yet you know that you carry little influence. For a leader, this is deflating and demoralizing.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, I want to encourage you with the following points:
You cannot lead everyone.
Sometimes, you simply have zero influence with someone. As a passionate leader, that used to really bother me. But not anymore…not as much anyway. I have learned that influence with others is a product of healthy relationships that are constructed over time. And there are times I am simply unable to develop a close relationship with someone, even though they may be a key person in my life.
Sometimes, I lack the skills necessary to build connections with certain people. I may not know how to relate to them. Other times, though I try to connect, they don’t want to, or are unable to connect with me. Maybe they do not have time for me; or they view me as unimportant on their current journey; or they do not make our relationship a priority.
If you find that you are unable to lead certain people, don’t beat yourself up over it. I suggest that you acknowledge it and diagnose the situation. Two people who have little or no influence on one other in a working or personal relationship should consider ending the relationship. And if they must continue (like in a marriage, parent/child relationship, or a person you have no choice about working with), then both parties should work tirelessly to change the state of the relationship. In other words, while it is not an ideal situation, we must realize that on our journey of life and leadership, we will at times find ourselves unable to lead certain people.
You cannot lead all of the time.
You will have more influence at some times than you do at others. This can also be frustrating as a leader. At a team level, it could be that one month you feel like you are making real progress, but the next month you are unable to reach them. Keep trying to increase your reach. But remember that your success as a leader depends on many factors: some within your control, and some outside of it. There will be times when you are incredibly successful and times when you are not. Don’t give up on yourself or others when the times come that you are unable to make the impact that you’d like. Just keep doing your personal best. Keep sacrificing. Keep dreaming. Keep building relationships.
You cannot lead in every area.
We lead best in the areas in which we have experienced the most success. If we ask people to read on a regular basis, but we are not doing the same; or to give better customer service, but we do not make our customers a priority; then our impact on them in these areas will be minimal. But in the areas we really excel…that’s where we will have the most impact in our leadership.
In the areas in which you have less experience and strength, let others take the lead. You follow them. Let them impact you. Be a good student. Be an active participant when you are being led.
What can we do when we find we have no influence with someone?
When we find that we have no influence with a person, or a group that we are in, then we should:
- Be reminded that we need to continue growing as leaders and continue our intentional journey to becoming better leaders.
- Work to increase our influence so we can contribute to progress. We should sacrifice and give of ourselves. And we should listen and build relationships.
- Be encouraged that it does not mean we are “bad leaders” if we are unable to lead certain people at certain times. All “great leaders” were not always able to reach everyone, all of the time, and in every situation.
- Determine for ourselves that if we are in a position of authority and don’t have much influence with others, then something must change. We must grow, resign, or replace the people with whom we have no influence. It is simply not right for a leader who is unable to lead an organization or team well to accept the status quo. Move on with a team or organization where you have a real impact.
If we fail in one area of our leadership, that does not mean we cannot be successful in another. This realization must not be an excuse to avoid improvement, or a justification to stay in a dysfunctional situation, but serve as a reminder that it is simply not realistic for any human to lead well with every person, and in every situation.
Actionable step: If you cannot lead certain people, at certain times, or in certain ways, don’t lose heart. Continue to grow as a leader.
About me: With the warmer weather, I am looking forward to driving my Jeep Wrangler. I had to replace my battery since I haven’t driven it all winter. Now, I am ready. Bring on the 80 to 90 degree Texas heat!
What I am Reading Now: Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, by Dallas Willard. This is a thought provoking book that challenges conventional concepts about how God speaks to us. I highly recommend it.
For Further Reading: