If you want to be a leader, be ready for a fight. You will be attacked.
The hardest lesson I ever learned about leadership was that when you are elevated to a position of authority, you have a new bulls-eye on your back. Don’t believe me? Ask the person who recently received a promotion how well they are being treated by their former peers. Or ask the CEO of a company that’s been at it a few years. If he or she is free to share, they’ll tell you stories of betrayal, attacks, jealousy and behind-the-scenes fights that you never imagined possible. If the spotlight is shining on you, you are an easy target.
I’m a pretty positive person; I trust people until they prove to me that I can’t; I want to help people who work around me to become better; I love to collaborate. But I have learned in over 3 decades of various leadership roles that if I attain success, someone becomes jealous and decides to go after me. I can prove it. I’m not paranoid, but I’m not stupid.
So what have I learned about the unenviable role of leadership?
- The spotlight on success shines the light on other people’s failures
- People almost always become jealous of another person’s success
- Leaders are always second guessed by subordinates
- Leadership is lonely
- Learning who you can trust takes time and the occasional apology
- Leadership requires me to make tough decisions not always popular with everyone
- I will be attacked; the challenge is to see it coming rather than be being blindsided
- Persona and professional integrity limits the attacks
- Integrity is the best defense for an attacks
- It sucks to lose
I often mention lessons I’ve learned from one of the most influential mentors I’ve ever had, Floyd Hammer, who has accomplished more in his business and humanitarian life than a thousand other people combined. He’s soon to turn 75 and is as strong as he was when he was 35. I’m unique in his organization because I’ve spent decades in the leadership trenches, too, so I understand his role. He reminds me of a lion who is the king of the pride. He’s been attacked by younger lions and lionesses and always wins, even if the gets bloodied in the fight.
People want to follow a leader who knows how to win the fight. It’s a sad day when a good leader gives up the fight.