If you think about it leading when you are on the outside looking in can look pretty easy. Yet for anyone who has ever been in a formal leadership role there is often a huge difference between perceptions and reality. Yes you are well rewarded for what you do but let’s not pretend that it is a walk in the park.
So why in reality is it tough to be a leader?
Reason #1: There Is No Guaranteed Blueprint
For a lot of things in life there is a blueprint or formula that you can follow that will produce the desired result the majority of the time. Of course there are things that you can do to increase your chances of success as leader. At the same time there are no specific blueprint or formula that if you follow you will get the right result every time.
Reason #2: You Are In Unchartered Territory A Lot Of The Time
One of things that differentiates leadership from management in my view is that leadership should be about moving things forward. Sounds simple enough. Yet think about it when you are trying to move things forward there is going to be a lot of uncertainty. There is going to be a lot of risk. You may even get it badly wrong. There is of course going to be past learning that you can draw on. Yet we all know that the context of each situation is a little different or unique.
Reason #3: The Desire For Instant Results
These days having a period of time to start to deliver results is a luxury that rarely exists. Most of the time people expect almost instant results. We all know however that if it is something significant we are trying to achieve or tackle it is going to take time to deliver. On the other hand if there are lots of external drivers to get a quick resolution it can be really tough.
Reason #4: You Don’t Usually Get To Hand Pick Your Team
Most of the leadership books you read will tell you it’s important to build a great team around you and I agree with that. But how often do you really get the opportunity to hand pick your own team? In reality you are likely to inherit and existing team which may or may not be as committed to what you want to achieve as you are.
Reason #5: The Buck Stops With You
When you are in a senior role but not the number 1 there is always someone else who takes the heat when things are not going to plan. As the number 1 the buck stops with you. If you are not delivering you are accountable. In many cases that will mean losing your job or being moved aside.
The Bottom Line: While leading is hugely rewarding, let’s not pretend that it is not challenging. Before you step into a leadership role, make sure you are ready to deal with those challenges.
Duncan Brodie works with professionals making the step from technical expert to leadership. Learn more here.