Probably the hardest thing for us to recognize is that we are not our roles. I rather like Robert Fritz’s idea that roles are rather like vehicles. You can ride a Land Rover to the woods; you can also drive a BMW into town. We have many roles, some of them simultaneous.
We normally come to a new leadership role lacking some of the necessary capabilities. So the first task is to take some time and training to acquire the new skills that we need, as well as delegating what we can to those who possess the requisite skills and experience..
One of the hardest jobs for a leader is not to take things personally. Leaders almost automatically become substitute scapegoats or lightning rods for those dissatisfied with issues. As Ed Friedman observes, “Expect sabotage”. It takes ongoing skills to differentiate the self from the role. For that reason, we need alliances with supportive people both within and beyond our own organization.
The pressures of leadership require that we seek sanctuary – not only of time and place but in reflection. For most of us, that requires scheduling it as an activity and giving it as much importance as any other daily appointment or habit.
In the end, leadership brings pain and one has to expect that. What also needs to be recognized is that it also brings the joy that comes from creating value and meaning. That’s what makes leadership worthwhile.