Every leader takes hits. There’s a cowardly part of me that does not want this to be true. But it is true. I’ve heard both [American] football and hockey players say that the best players are willing to take a hit. That’s how they are engaged at the deepest level in the game.
People will misquote you, abuse you, accuse you, talk about you untruthfully, and misjudge your motives. You will say things that offend people. You will not make everyone happy all the time. You will fall short of people’s expectations. Study biographies – even the people we admire the most later on had plenty of real-time and near-term critics.
You are not living in a world where everyone is going to like you. Remember, every leader takes hits.
This is partially why captivating vision and sense of mission are imperative – if you can’t stand on these as a strong foundation you’ll be battered right off your feet.
Here’s a thoughtful statement to ponder:
If I tried to read, much less answer, all the criticisms made of me and all the attacks leveled against me, this office would have to be closed for all other business. I do the best I know how-the very best I can-and I mean to keep on doing this down to the very end. If the end brings me out all wrong, ten angels swearing I had been right would make no difference. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me now will not amount to anything. – Abraham Lincoln
One of the most common derailers for leaders is the need to be liked by everyone. My mother told me as a boy, “If Jesus didn’t make everyone happy you’re not going to, either.” But I would still try.
Every leader takes hits. Leaders must make decisions that someone won’t like. You can’t come down on both sides of every issue. (Growing up in West Virginia we used to say that a politician was a man who could straddle a barb wired fence naked… and smile.) The word decide comes to English from the Latin word cidre, which means to cut off. Homicide is cutting off a human life. Fungicide is cutting off a fungus. Insecticide is cutting off insects. When you make a decision, if you haven’t cut off something as a choice, then you haven’t really made a decision.
It’s okay to struggle with tough decisions. Mentally steel yourself to accept that every leader takes hits. Stay with your mission and strategic direction. That’s leadership. Fuzzy wuzzy “they won’t love me so I can’t decide” isn’t leadership.