I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody – Bill Cosby
Ask any Green Bay Packers fan and they will tell you without any hesitation that the infamous call at the end of the game against Seattle was blown and it cost them the game. Before the lockout with the regular NFL officiating crew was ended, the replacement referees were in an unenviable situation of trying to please the players, coaches, and fans. It was a daunting task.
It reminds me of the story of the boy who rode on a donkey as the old man walked. As they went along, they passed some people who remarked, “It’s a shame the old man is walking and the boy is riding.” The man and the boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.
Later, they passed some people who remarked, “What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.” They decided they both would walk. Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So they both rode the donkey.
Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying, “How awful to put such a load on a poor donkey.” The boy and man said they were probably right so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed a bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned. The moral of the story: If you try to please everyone, you will eventually lose your a_ _.
Jules Ormont said, “A great leader never sets himself above his followers except in carrying out responsibilities.” And while he makes an excellent point it is worth bearing out that a leader’s greatest challenge is in trying to please everyone. Not only is it not possible, but it will stress you out in the process. So what is a leader to do? Here are three things to remember when it would appear you are about to lose you a _ _.
Be a leader of principle not of politics. One of the hardest things for new leaders to learn is how to stand on principle and not be swayed by the expediency of office politics. It is much harder to stand alone when making decisions that run counter to popular opinion. After all, who doesn’t want to be liked?
In their book, Winning: The Answers, Jack and Suzy Welch state, “Your number one priority is to win in the marketplace so that you can continue to grow and provide opportunities for your people. Of course, you want your employees to be happy. But their happiness needs to come from the company’s success, not from their every need being met.” That is excellent advice every leader must learn. Lead from your convictions and principles; not politics.
Be a leader of purpose not of power. This is where most in leadership slip up. Some make the mistake that it is the quest for power that matters most. But when the quest for power is your chief motivation then your purpose (mission and vision) tends to take a back seat.
“There seems to be two main paths for people to get ahead in organizations,” writes John Maxwell. “One way is to try to get ahead by doing the work. The other is to try to get ahead by working an angle. It’s the difference between production and politics.” He’s right. When your purpose is clear and everyone is committed to the vision, you will not have to worry about power. Be a leader of purpose, on purpose, and you will go far.
Be a leader for your people not your position. Whenevera leader thinks it is about his position and not about people he will not be a leader for long. In the process these naïve leaders fail to remember this simple rule of leadership: your position does not give you the advantage; leadership does. Positions come and go, but the leader who endures is the one who is committed to serving his people.
Leadership is tough enough without trying to please everyone. When you make it your practice to lead by your principles, lead on purpose, and lead your people then you will the leader who has earned the respect of the people.
© 2012 Doug Dickerson
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