What if leadership is supposed to be hard?

Many good things are!

It’s about your expectations.

Do you notice how stressful it is when you expect something to be relatively easy and then it’s hard? Whether it’s a physical challenge (golf comes to mind) or a mental challenge, that feeling of frustration or overwhelm creeps in?

Same with leadership and managing people or processes? We get frequently get frustrated, either thinking we’re inadequate or thinking that others are the problem. But what if this is all wrong?

What if it’s supposed to be hard?

In talking with a friend last week, he described his joy (my word because that is the emotion that was coming across) over confronting challenges. That it gives him energy to face a complex problem and that is one of the best parts of his role (he runs a wonderful neighborhood restaurant in town). It made me think about all the people that I work with who get down about similar viewpoint (different specific challenges of course).

Same with our lives….my sister and I were commiserating about the holidays and she was sad and discouraged with the holiday experience. She didn’t want her co-workers to ask her about it, because she didn’t want to say it sucked.

It was the first one without our dad, and we all knew there would be an enormous void in our family events as there are in our lives. And I said what if it was supposed to suck? What if it was supposed to be sad?

To think we could have shifted our emotions or experience, well would we even want to?  I didn’t necessarily want to feel abundant joy in the holidays, I wanted to get through them. And maybe that is okay. Because I could honor the emotions, the grief and sadness without expecting something more from myself. I don’t have to make it mean there’s a problem. Or that something is wrong with me.

Because the expectations are what matters. If I expect it to be easy, and then it’s hard, then there is the corresponding gap. Something is wrong (with the situation or with me).

The thought process is…I can think, this is hard:

·        And it shouldn’t be

·        I must be doing it wrong

·        I’m not cut out for this

·        And it’s someone else’s fault

·        So-and-so would know what to do

Same with life, same with leadership. What if, sometimes, and I’m not saying ALL the time because that would totally suck. But sometimes you need that challenge to prove to yourself what you are capable of. What you can overcome. How you can dig deep within yourself to find the answers to the challenges.

Whether that is influencing a difficult stakeholder, or leading a controversial change, or handling an unreasonable client—what if this is your opportunity to grow? It doesn’t have to mean anything about negative about you. In fact, the obstacle is there for you to prove something to yourself. Show you what you are capable of, and what you’ll learn.

Because this holiday season was not supposed to be awesome. It was supposed to be sad. It was supposed to highlight the void, the break in our hearts, it was supposed to give me pause to reflect on the love for my father, and the absence of him in our lives.

Consider this in your next leadership or life challenge. This is life, it’s messy and complicated. And that is as it should be. Sometimes it’s going to be hard. It doesn’t’ mean it’s a problem with you. Don’t lower your expectations. Be realistic.

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