The Paradox of Leadership

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It often seems like there is a lack of leadership in our business world today. Is that the reality or just our perception? Have our standards changed? Has there always been a lack? Are “leaders” more focused on the bottom line than on their people?

Being a great leader is something so few seem to achieve, yet everyone hopes for in those that “lead” them. I bet every single employee, if asked, would say they would love to work for a great boss. We hear a ton about “workplace culture” and it is proven (and kind of obvious) that leadership has a ton of impact on that culture.

Yet how many of us truly see ourselves as leaders AND consciously work to be a great leader? Being a leader is tough. And often lonely. All of this has me thinking about what I have come to realize is a “paradox of leadership.”

  • A great leader has to be humble enough to realize they are actually serving those they lead. Yet, be willing to make the tough decisions when needed.
  • A leader is open to learning; new ideas, ways of doing things, about themselves and their team. And balances that with sharing the knowledge they have earned through their experience in a way that mentors their team.
  • Leaders have to have to be vulnerable and willing to admit mistakes, or risk becoming unapproachable, seem super human, and easily prey to falling off their pedestal. And yet they must be competent at actually doing their job.
  • A great leader is flexible, able to shift as needed and still hold a high standard of accountability on the things that are important.
  • Leaders build, nurture and foster a team and have the courage to make changes to that team when it’s not working.
  • A leader is expected to be the example in and out of work. They are expected to work harder than their team and still maintain a healthy life balance that supports their success and serves as a role model for the team.
  • Some might say calling yourself as a leader sounds prideful or arrogant. Yet not self-identifying as a leader may mean we don’t see the need to develop leadership skills. Or can lead to lopsided stereotypes in society (i.e. more men than women consider themselves “leaders” – regardless of their titles).

Most of us can give examples of people we consider to be great leaders. Many of us would even admit we “lead” in some way – or at least be willing to say we have influence over others. Yet in an era where the world is changing quickly; where business is vastly different than 100, 50, even 20 years ago; are we intentionally building our own leadership awareness and skills? Are we adapting to those changes in business? And, maybe most importantly, are we building leadership skills in the emerging leaders, millennials, teens and even children who are our future leaders?

I’d love your thoughts. How are you developing yourself as a leader? Who do you admire, respect as a “great” leader and what are some of the traits they exemplify? What skills do our emerging leaders, millennials, teens and kids need to learn to become great leaders of our businesses?