Character First the Magazine

The Risks of Leadership

One of the greatest challenges to being an effective leader is the ability to make difficult decisions with a limited amount of information.

Even with sophisticated projections, making decisions about the future always involves an element of risk. At some point, leaders are tasked with making choices based upon what they know and feel.

Earlier in life, I thought the primary reason leaders were reluctant was due to not having enough data. While this is an important factor, I have found leaders are more commonly trying to balance what is best for individuals with what is best for the organization.

For example, it can be a challenge to work with a highly skilled salesperson who sells products or services with ease but lacks the organizational skills to do paperwork on time. It is not uncommon to see a machinist who is the best at his or her trade but lacks the communication skills to build a sense of teamwork with coworkers. In situations like these, leaders often struggle with how to move forward. Do I risk losing my best performers by holding them to a higher standard?

The skill that I believe separates good leaders from the great ones is the ability to make tough choices based upon what is best for the team and not just for the individuals on the team. While leaders must lead each person as an individual, they must remember that team goals cannot be compromised for the sake of individuals, regardless of how talented they are. This consistency helps provide stability to the overall group.

When making decisions about the future, leaders should be decisive about matters that undermine team unity and momentum. In matters of character, it is particularly important that leaders model good character, reward good character, and expect others to follow their lead.

When this path becomes an accepted part of the culture, great things happen.

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