Being a leader isn’t easy. With every decision a leader makes someone is happy – and someone is not. One often misunderstood reason leadership is challenging is the tension every leader feels when making decisions. In fact, every leader faces some common tensions – everyday.
Leaning to balance the tensions of leadership may determine the level of success a leader can sustain. If a leader leans too far in either direction their leadership effectiveness suffers.
Let me share some examples of these everyday type leadership tensions.
7 tensions every leader faces:
Displaying confidence without being arrogant.
People want to follow a confident leader, but pride is a repulsive trait. I feel this tension especially when I’m leading on a new team or with new people on the team. But it is a continual tension regardless of how long I’ve been in a position.
Yes, I have experience. I’ve learned a few things. But it comes across as arrogant and is always resisted when I’m always the one with the answers.
Making bold decisions while building collaboration.
I personally experience this one in most meetings we have as a team. I can almost always sense the room waiting for my opinion. Many times I realize we won’t move forward until I weigh in to the matter.
But good leadership involves collaboration. I’m not the only voice – and many times not the smartest voice in the process. If I have the only answer no one will participate, but if I never have any answers no one will want to follow my leadership. (Therefore, I have to discipline myself to be quiet sometimes – waiting for others to speak.)
Showing strength while displaying compassion.
People want to follow leadership who generally care for them as individuals. Compassion for those who can’t help themselves is an attractive leadership quality. The best leaders I know have a concern for others.
But no one wants compassion that is translated as weakness. There are times a leader has to stand strong for they know is right thing – even when everyone can’t fully understand yet what they are doing or why.
Controlling energy towards a vision but allowing individuals to chart their path.
Good leaders create healthy structure which can be managed for effectiveness.
At the same time, the best discoveries often come when people are allowed the freedom to create, explore, and “break the rules”.
Celebrating victory while not resting on current success.
This one is hard for me. I’m ready and wired for “next”. I like to keep moving. Sitting still is one of my hardest disciplines.
However, I know there are those on our team who can’t adequately move forward until we’ve recognized our current success. They need to celebrate, reflect and even rest.
Continually balancing this tension is good for the team.
Learning from other leaders but being who you were uniquely wired to be.
I’m a huge proponent of wisdom-seeking. In fact, I think we should always have a mentor – usually more than one. So, I read, attend conferences and try to learn best practices and from the experiences of others.
But there’s a tension of attempting to duplicate another person’s success and being exactly who God has called me to be. God has not called me to preach like Andy Stanley. He’s called me to preach like me. God has not called me to lead like John Maxwell, but to lead like I lead.
This doesn’t mean I can’t learn from both of these – and can and have – but I cannot forget God has uniquely wired me – and He has uniquely wired you.
Spending time with people versus completing tasks.
This may personally be the most common tension for of the ones listed. Leadership is people. Without people – without getting to know them, earning their trust, investing in them and showing them we care – leadership will never be effective.
But I have work to do also. There are outside demands on my time. I have emails, phone calls, texts and visits with people who I’m not necessarily leading. I have paperwork to do. (I hate paperwork by the way!)
The real work of a leader is people and, yet, the work must be done.
Tensions every leader faces – everyday. Leader, do you feel it? At some level, don’t you feel it everyday?
I realize I’ve only exposed the problem, without a lot of solutions. And, honestly, your solution will be different from mine. But I think the answer isn’t necessarily an easy to define solution for each of these tensions.
It is recognizing they exist and continually seeking to live within them. (I learned that phrase from Andy Stanley – or something like it.)
And when one side of the tension is getting more attention than the other – fighting to get back to a better balance of tensions.