I remember when I accepted my first leadership role. For whatever reason I envisioned that my next few months would consist of doing motivational speeches in stadiums to thousands, playing golf or going out for drinks with clients, and kicking back in my corner office with my rich mahogany furniture and oversized leather chair. Apparently I thought I was going to be Barney Stinson. I digress. Regardless of what I thought being a leader was or looked like, I was wrong. Leadership is raw, it’s not always Hollywood. It’s not often filled with glamour but instead, integrity, heart, devotion, and really tough decisions.
I am 28 years old and I do not know everything. I have never claimed to be a genius, an expert, or that I will always have the right answer or even an answer at all. But one thing is certain — my staff always knows they can come to me for guidance, support, and decisions. From personal to personnel I see the gamut. Some decisions are simple, some complex; some questions are bewildering, and some intense. Nevertheless often as a leader you are faced with tough decisions and for many, that’s the toughest part of our job.
In my career to-date I have worked with people from half my age to those more than twice. I’ve managed people with multiple terminal degrees, twice as many years of experience, and those whom never attended college. I’ve worked with, hired, let go, or fired friends, colleagues and peers. I’ve sunset programs that have been around forever, dedicated funds to concept programs that are submersed in risk, and I’ve made mistakes. And it never gets easier.
Of all of my adventures, opportunities, and experiences the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make have been centered on personnel. Point blank, as a leader it sucks. Believe it or not — no one likes firing someone, letting them go, cutting their salary, hours, or benefits. Trust me, as much as it hurts you to hear it, it pains me even more to say it. And if that’s true for you too, then it means your heart is in the right place.
Many of my coworkers will joke with me when I often refer to them as family. But it is the god honest truth. Above everything else that I am responsible for on a day-to-day basis, I want to ensure that I am providing my staff with the tools, resources, and guidance necessary to be successful. I look after them, mentor them, provide them with support, and even go to them when I am troubled or sad. Bad days when good people surround you are hardly bad at all. But isn’t that what family is? It’s a group of individuals that work together to support each other, care for each other’s wellbeing and help them succeed in every facet of life. You may not always see eye-to-eye but you always come from the same place.
But just like work, life is a results-driven cause.
As a leader, in order to gain the results you want, you need to provide direction, guidance, and support to the people you’ve surrounded yourself with. You need to make those relationships, emotional connections, and that investment I talked about previously. But if that investment goes bad, you need to cut your ties, and that is what separates good managers from great leaders– recognizing the need and subsequently making those tough decisions centered on change.
So how do you do it? Do you need to be emotionally void or inhumane? Not at all, instead, whenever you come across a tough decision, just ask these five questions:
- Does your decision align with your morals?
- Does your decision align with your vision?
- Does your decision focus on long-term outcomes and not short-term gains?
- Does your decision keep your integrity intact?
- Do the perceived benefits of your decision outweigh the perceived barriers?
If you can run through this list and say yes to each of these questions then regardless of the issue in hand, you will always be heading down the right path to success.
But the most important thing to realize here is that this post isn’t about how to make tough decision; it’s about how to guide your life. By staying focused and using these five questions to drive your future you will indeed accomplish amazing things. And I look forward to hearing and learning about them all.
Leadership isn’t about making decisions on your own; it’s about creating ownership in your decisions.
Best of luck!