The Daily Challenges Leaders Must Overcome to Be Successful
As he verbalized his most significant leadership challenge, it was apparent there wasn’t a simple solution.
“Our company looks at its leaders as player-coaches, so I am responsible for my results and the results of my team. How do I balance driving business results with taking care of my people?” He continued, “When push comes to shove, I have to work on this account worth six figures instead of training the new hire on my team who is struggling. So what do I do, let her fail, or choose the revenue?”
What this high-potential front line manager described is a macro challenge faced daily by not just him many leaders. The reality of the situation is that he didn’t have to choose one or the other. He had to commit to both. As a leader, he is responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.
“Leaders aren’t responsible for the results. Leaders are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.” Simon Sinek
As an individual contributor to the team, his results are his responsibility. Thus making the balance of time and energy between both responsibilities a key to his success.
This common, yet complex challenge got me thinking about the more extensive balancing acts leaders face every day. These are the three significant challenges leaders face daily:
Metrics vs. People
Recently it was reported that Salesforce cut 1,000 jobs while the stock surged after an incredible earning report. Even though a spokesperson for the company said, “We’re reallocating resources to position the company for continued growth,” it provides evidence to support the delicate balance between metrics and people.
I have written before; there’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. However, most job responsibilities for people in positions of leadership are related to reporting metrics and sending performance reports. While there is nothing wrong with the metrics, many tasks eventually will be automated and replaced by technology.
The more leaders lean into focusing on their people and their daily habits, behaviors, and choices, the better the results will be.
Love vs. Discipline
The best leaders today use a style of leadership, often referred to as servant leadership. Author Pat Lencioni said it well, “We shouldn’t call it servant leadership anymore; we should just call it leadership.”
While Lencioni is 100% correct, leaders also need a methodology to lead this way. In our research, we’ve studied leaders who do this well. The common thread was their ability to balance high levels of love and discipline in the way they lead.
While some may shy away from using the word love in the workplace, I assure you it’s in no way referring to any sort of HR violation. Instead, I define love in Building the Best as “to contribute to someone’s long-term success and well being.”
Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. They found when people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. While recognition is essential, there was an additional 20% jump by in performance by showing your people you care or love them.
But balance is essential. Therefore, if you have love, you must also have its counterpart, discipline. In Building the Best, I defined discipline as “to promote standards in order for an individual to choose to be at his or her best.” This means setting high standards and holding others accountable for meeting and exceeding those standards.
Achieving a balance of love and discipline in a servant leadership approach is not an easy task. The best leaders not only embrace the challenge, but they excel at it giving their team-high levels of both.
Short vs. Long-Term Decision Making
Often short-term and long-term views can contradict each other, while other times, they are in direct alignment.
In today’s short term business cycle, most leaders are prioritizing the short-term over the long-term, and who can blame them. The pressure from executive teams, investors, and even their bosses lends itself to “get results now, and we will deal with the future later.”
I coach leaders to leverage Colin Powell’s 40-70 Rule when making a tough decision, then running it through both the short and long-term ramifications. If you aren’t familiar with the 40-70 rule, Powell says, “every time you face a tough decision, you should have no less than forty percent and no more than seventy percent of the information you need to make the decision.”
This makes so much sense because if you are making a decision with less than forty percent of the information, you are taking a wild guess but if you wait until you have over 70% of the information, you are making it too late. The art of this rule is using both your intuition, experience, expertise, and also the priorities of short vs. long term ramifications.
I told the leader in the LearnLoft Leader Program, “if leadership were easy, everyone would do.” He is capable of navigating these challenges and so are you.
You have chosen to be a leader and to embrace the responsibilities that come with the territory. Your people are counting on you to rise to the challenge.
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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.