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Bettering Others and the World You Live In

The Ungratefulness of Leadership

A blog post title of Ungratefulness of Leadership could be misleading to the reader. When you first read it, your mind will go one of two ways.  It may go in the direction of ungratefulness you feel from the people you lead or the ungratefulness from those we follow. Neither of these apply to the direction we are going to go.

A few years back, we were studying a book with our leadership team. I do not recall the specific book, but I do recall a moment from a follow up group discussion that stuck with me. Whatever the topic was, we were on our high horse as a group. We were spending our time focused on the behavior of others. One of our team members brought us back down to earth. He reminded us that the author did not write the book for them, he wrote it for us. We were the ones reading it.  Bam!

That moment changed the entire trajectory of the discussion. A turn towards discussing our behaviors, not the behavior of others. We can all agree that it is much easier to point the finger away from us, than towards us. The real growth in our leadership journey comes when we can reflect on OUR behaviors.

ungratefulness of leadership

The Path to Ungratefulness in Leadership

We all have our stories of growth through an organization. The uphill, both ways kind of stories. Ones that we share with those we lead to glorify the dues we paid to get where we are at in the organization. When we were in those entry level positions, we desired to have more influence. To use that influence to lead more people, to have greater decision-making authority, the ability to do things a better way, and the time to do more.

You Desired It

Now that you have this level of influence, do you find yourself grateful for it or ungrateful for it? For me, I think I have more moments of the latter than I would like to admit. Each and every one of our gripes and complaints in these four areas would be laughed at by the entry level you. What was desired by us then, can look a lot different when we finally receive it.

Let’s unpack each of these four desires that can lead us down the path of being ungrateful.

1. To Lead People

We all dreamt of the day when we would lead others. We just never realized how hard it would be. My Paw Paw used to say that, “managing people will be the hardest thing you will ever do.” He was right. When we come home at night and our energy is waning, it was likely a tough people day.

People are complex. There is not a single person you lead that demands the same application of leadership. Some need to be left alone with space to work and others require frequent time and attention. Certain team members want a thorough, lengthy explanation, while others want the bullet points. Some are decisive and some are calculated.  I could go on and on.

The one thing they all have in common is they desire quality leadership. Our responsibility is to be that leader. Even on the toughest days, with the most difficult people, we should be grateful for the opportunity to lead others.

2. To Have Greater Decision-Making Authority

Ever suffer from decision fatigue as a leader? I do.  A lot. I found an article online at www.inc.com by Heidi Zak that says we make 35,000 decisions a day. That’s crazy to think about and exhaustive at the same time.

As a leader, it is easy to grow tired of making decisions, but it is the nature of the beast. The easiest way to guard against decision fatigue is to make less of them. On an episode of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, he talked about the concept of leaders saying to their people, “you decide.”

Not every decision is deferrable. There are important decisions that only the leader can make. By delegating smaller to medium-sized decisions, you can focus on the big decisions. Be grateful for the decision-making authority you have.  Remember…you asked for it.

3. To Do Things a Better Way

As a young leader, our innocence leads us to have plenty of ideas on how we could do things better if we were the leader! Then as we climb the ladder, we find ourselves critical of the next generation of leaders who want to do what you did differently.

The perspective totally shifts! We become rigid with experience and tend to find ways new ideas will not work rather than how they could work. Cynicism can creep in with time served.  Be grateful that you have people that have ideas to do it a better way.

4. To Have Time to Do More

Here is a lie that we can begin to believe as we grow positionally. The more influence I have in the organization, it will give me time to do more. Here is the deal, we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, the same seven days a week. What I have found is, something will fill the gap of time. It will be filled with what you prioritize.

Early in your career, projects take priority. Later in your career, people take priority.  Your time is best invested there. Be grateful you have the time to do more…for others.

Ungratefulness of Leadership Conclusion

When I talk to leaders, many reference the earlier part of their careers and would give anything to go back to that level of simplicity. Heck, there are days I would love to be on a zero-turn lawn mower, ear buds in, cutting sports fields. I get it. The problem with those statements is it shows our ungratefulness in leadership. Most of us have every bit of influence that we ever desired, but we spend most of our time whining and complaining about it.

There is a great five-minute video where broadcaster Ernie Johnson speaks to the Alabama Football Team.  He shares with the team about his long career at Turner Broadcasting and that he has a “get to job, not a got to job.”  Now that is a grateful perspective!  What if we could replace every “got to” statement with a “get to?”  Gratitude grows with that simple replacement.

I wrote this post as a reminder to myself and I hope it inspires you to be more grateful for the influence you have accumulated. We owe it to the younger versions of ourselves who deeply desired to have everything that we earned today. You and I need to be grateful that we have the awesome opportunity to better others and the worlds we live in.

Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection

Are you grateful for the influence you have today? What would your younger self say about the lack of gratitude you have for the influence they desired?

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