Five Poignant Points in the Life of a Leader
Sometimes we get knocked down. Hard. Those of us in leadership need to expect these times, learn from them, and stand again.
Last year a staff member left our team. She had only been with us for about three months, but still her departure hurt. I felt sad, even defeated. I had seen so much potential in her and had worked closely with her. I had invested time and resources into training her. After she left, I questioned my ability to lead, even whether I had it in me to be successful.
Those feelings surprised me, but also left me contemplating how as leaders we sometimes encounter events that can crush our spirits. Even if we’ve been leading successfully for years.
But we must go on.
Below are five poignant points that have knocked me down. For most leaders these can be a cause of personal defeat. Here’s what I did to overcome them.
When Someone You Love Leaves
It can be especially painful place when someone you love leaves your team. Thankfully, over the last decade, I have only had a handful of those situations. They still hit me hard and they caused me to question my ability to care for them well.
When someone we love leaves, we naturally experience deep loss and we must acknowledge our grief. Let yourself feel it. My rule is to not be down on myself for more than 12 to 24 hours. We must stand up and go on. Next, boldly examine your role in the departure, take ownership of your mistakes, make amends and grow from it.
When a Problem Persists
It could be a problem with a person you work with, or a problem with a certain part of your team or organization. Sometimes we become weary working against the same problem month after month, or year after year. Don’t despair. But somehow you must find a way out.
If you haven’t done it before, I invite you to check out my Leadership Diagnostic to help think through any common organizational malaise. Regardless how good you get, the reality is you will hit walls of resistance when leading people, especially if you are growing and challenging yourself. If you have a problem that has besieged you for a long time, don’t give up. But don’t keep taking the same approach. Reach out and get help.
When a Weakness Lingers
Being human is a daily struggle to conquer oneself. As dedicated as you and I may be to personal growth, imperfections sometimes linger, maybe even dragging us down and holding us back our entire lives.
But we must not surrender. Take courage in knowing that if we have not found the answer, it doesn’t mean we will not find it soon. Keep seeking. You shall find.
When a Team Stagnates
The energy and productivity of our teams will ebb and flow. But overall, we should have a tangible sense we are progressing together as an organization. Discovering we have become stagnant can be demoralizing for us as leaders. Persist. Keep reaching for a way to pull yourself and your people up and out into forward progress. If you are in this situation now, you may want to look over these Six Indicators of a Healthy Team.
When a Dream Ends
The last deeply painful place we may find ourselves as leaders is losing hope that we can achieve what we thought we could. When a dream we love comes to an end, we can find ourselves drowning in despair. I have been there, and it does not feel good.
Throughout our leadership journey, we will have beginnings and endings. While the ending of a dream can feel very much like the ending of our hope, and while the grief can be sharp and life changing, we must be encouraged that there will be a new morning.
When this happens, and after you wrestle and grieve, I want you to remember two words, would you? For all of us who are depending on you to lead us forward:
Actionable Step: Expect hard blows as a leader. When they come, take the time to gather your emotions and salvage what you can. Stand up. Start again.
What I Am Reading Now: Crash the Chatterbox, by Steven Furtick about hearing God’s voice above all others. In this book, Pastor Steven describes practical ways for us live a victorious life by managing our internal “Chatterbox,” the thoughts that pervade our life and lead us to self destruction and defeat. This is a well-written and easy to read book which I recommend.
For Further Reading: