I walked into the staff room.  The laughter stopped and people avoided eye contact with me.  I knew that a few recent events had created frustrations and I was the one that people felt should have done more in my role as the leader.

If you’re a leader you’ve probably had days like this.  Days when you have to deliver bad news; hold people to account; justify the rationale behind an unpopular decision.  The truth is that if you’re a leader you’ll have days when people will direct their frustrations at you, they’ll misunderstand you, they may talk behind your back, they might even sabotage your efforts, whatever it is that happens it’s not going to be a great day in the office.  Bottom line is sometimes it’s not easy to be a leader.

It’s not easy when you carry the weight of peoples negativity directed at you – whether it’s justified or not.  Like it or not we are still human and we like it when people appreciate us, support us, tell us where doing a good job, laugh at our jokes etc.  When that’s not happening is natural to feel it at some level.

Here are some things you might want to remind yourself when you’re having one of those days:

  • Remember that no one is forcing you to do this job.  You have a choice as to whether you want to do this job or not.  I remind myself “No one’s got a gun to my head”.  I do have the choice and reminding myself helps me avoid feeling sorry for myself or being swept up in the injustice of it all.
  • Acknowledge the emotion that comes with it.  If it hurts then it’s OK to name it up.  Even better if you have someone you can confide in and get some support.  A coach or supervisor can be a great person to unpack with.
  • The job of the leader is to lead. When the going gets tough it’s tempting to back away, but that will only exacerbate the problem.  We have to engage with the people and the issues and work hard towards providing a way forward.
  • Stay open.  It’s easy to get defensive but make every effort to stay open, to sit with the discomfort.  Stay humble, listen to what other have to say and be gracious.
  • Stay focused.  It may be that you need to maintain a tough line that people won’t like.  Stay on track and try to focus on what the issue is that you are dealing with.  You’re engagement with the issue might even make things worse for a period. 
  • Be kind to yourself.  When you’re feeling the weight of the situation it’s important to look after yourself – spend time doing something that recharges your batteries.  It will help put things in perspective. 

Reflection:  What strategies would you add to the list?