Leading People Series – Part 2
In the Leading People Series, we’ll examine some key points to consider when leading people. Part 2 is about Lesson 1 from General (USA-Ret) Colin L. Powell’s Lessons in Leadership, which is “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off”. The General describes this lesson further as follows:
“Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable – if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.”
This key point may be a little controversial to some in these days where equal and joint decision making is being encouraged among all members of teams, as well as an objective to avoid upsetting anyone within the team. Although I agree with empowering and engaging all team members where and as often as possible, I do believe there is a time and place where the leader has to be the leader and make tough decisions and give hard feedback. At the end of the day, it is typically the leader who will be held responsible. This doesn’t mean a leader should be disrespectful or ignorant, but it does mean that sometimes people won’t like the decision or the feedback. The leader can still be respectful when making a tough decision or giving hard feedback and they will be respected by their team in return.