The Challenge of Leadership: Managing Disappointment

People will disappoint you

I was sitting with my wife today discussing a story of a monumental mix up of a process and this thought came to me.

People will disappoint you.

It will happen, unfortunately it will happen often. People you count on to get a job done will not do so. People who agree to take responsibility for a task will beg off and not do so. People you count on to show up will find mysterious reasons not to. Yes it will happen. What though do you do about it?

This is a tough question.

Start with this, don’t get discouraged. Accepting the fact that people will let you down lessens the sting of the event ever so slightly. We leaders can often tie our personality and very being so closely to our role that it almost seems personal when we are let down. Trust me it usually is not.

People, most of us, walk around looking at the world through “me” colored glasses.  (Think the seagulls in Finding Nemo; mine! mine!) They filter events based on their best interest. It takes effort to look beyond the selfishness and put others needs ahead of our own. While this realization helps the leader to understand why this happens, I recognize it also reinforces the bitterness of the disappointment. The ability to put others needs ahead of our own is one of the hallmarks of the leader in the first place.

Folks we got to love them anyway, accept them for what and who they are and forge ahead despite the setbacks.

One of my favorite strategies is to count ever more on those who can be counted on. Often I will demonstrate more care and attention on the trustworthy team member than their fickle counterpart. Why? Simple I want to always invest in those people who can be counted on but I also want to open a line of communication with the under performer. Why don’t you treat me the way you treat Jane, she always seems to be getting the good projects they will complain. Well Bobby I would love to give you those same opportunities. Can I give you some feedback though? The last project I asked you to help out on you decided not to take the critical piece causing the team to pick up the slack. Look I have an idea let’s start off with this other project (read smaller, less risk, little exposure) and see how you do with that. When you complete that successfully we will discuss larger projects.

Ultimately though it is the leaders role to discover the potential of each member of their team. There is talent in everyone; it’s a matter of finding it. We need to see the transformational ability that lies within each human soul. The leader will see this first and convey to their team member the conviction and confidence they have in that individual to see it as well. When they see it for themselves they have the chance of achieving greatness. This transformation is only possible through a clear and deep trust based relationship

This is the challenge of a leader.

Yes people will disappoint you and yes we lead on anyway looking to grow our people.

Lead well


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Posted in Leader Attributes, Self Leadership Development
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