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The Weight of Leadership

Leadership is hard. From a distance, it seems “sexy,” as they say—all adventure and successful challenge. But if you’ve really had your hand in for a while, you know that leadership is hard. As Spiderman said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s the inescapable weight of leadership.

Leadership is hard because of the weight of responsibility. You are responsible and accountable for people, resources, and decisions. And you don’t always get it right. Leadership is hard. It’s like a marriage. It’s not making decisions, then walking away and letting things run on their own. Success requires daily maintenance. There’s no one to blame when things go wrong except you. You are not responsible for tasks; you are responsible for results. Nothing bigger.

Leadership is hard because you are the primary decision-maker. This gets harder as you rise in leadership position and authority. You start with the decisions for your sub-group, and you may eventually be responsible for the entire business. You often have the last say in the process. Signing on the dotted line can be daunting, especially when you led the process. Some of these decisions are very difficult, and you are choosing the wiser, better decision between two choices you don’t like.

Leadership is hard because sometimes a leader has to choose between being respected or liked. Much like parenting, you can’t always get the “I really like you” when you make the right decision, the one that ultimately earns respect. Also, like a parent, you have to be liked on a significant level for the relationship to work, but you can’t sacrifice the right decision for popularity. It’s a tightrope.

Leadership is hard because it’s a balancing act—you have to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the individuals, both employees and clients. Much of the time, one decision won’t please everyone. You have to constantly find a workable balance. Each “community” is significant to the overall success.

Leadership is hard because you have to communicate AND connect. Delivering a message is significant, but it has to connect to matter. You are the environment setter, the cultural architect. When things are panicky, you have to bring clam. When there is little motivation, you have to re-energize. You must have a true connection to make it happen.

Leadership is hard because it requires almost instant adaptability. Your audiences and challenges are diverse and can change from one moment to the next. You must develop the ability to quickly be 100% wherever the situation demands you be.

Leadership is hard because it is physically and emotionally draining. It is so difficult on you that if you do not establish regular rhythms of renewal and refreshment, your leadership will become ineffective and short-lived.

Leadership is hard because it is lonely. If you are a good leader, you don’t lead in isolation. But that doesn’t mean it’s not lonely It’s lonely because the buck stops with you, and no one can feel exactly that with you. The higher you go in leadership, the lonelier it gets, because the decisions are more significant, the expectations higher, and the margin for error is narrower.

Leadership is hard because it’s never done. An old proverb used to say, “A man’s work is from sun to sun, but a mother’s work is never done.” That’s the work of any leader. It’s relentless. You never get to check it off your to-do list and say, “There. That’s done.” There is no finish line. So you have to think progressively, not momentarily, a journey, not events. It’s an endurance run.

Leadership is hard because you must keep growing. You will get stale and frustrated if you get into a routine of the same grind. You need podcasts and books and growth. You must schedule time to keep your mind and spirit alive and growing.

Leadership is hard because responsibility keeps growing, never lessens. You must learn to prioritize and excellently delegate or it will overwhelm you. You must learn to do what only you can do and delegate/empower the rest.

Leadership is hard because you must be worth imitating. It’s not just about you. You must raise up leaders who are worth following, and that begins with who you are. What is there about who you are and what you do that is worth reproducing? What are you doing that others can and should replicate? You can’t just say what needs done—they must see you do it. For instance, primary leadership for me is as a pastor. I can’t just say people need to worship with their hearts and participate in community. They must see me in the thick of it. Leadership is integrity. The things I say cannot come from a book. They MUST come from my heart and what I myself am living out.

Leadership is hard but so worth it, for us and those we lead. Leadership is sacrifice. Sacrificing time, effort, energy, ego. It’s putting others first. But when we consistently have clear core values and live them out through our leadership, our integrity assures that we have great fulfillment, and the sacrifices eventually pay off in people, the greatest reward, and in profit of all kinds.

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