The Conflict of Calling

Leaders have been thrust into a new world. The challenges of managing this crisis have been hard on all of us. As leaders, we are called to a higher standard. What we do reverberates down through our organizations. The impact we have on our people matters.

Leaders are called to serve. They are called to set an example for others. They are called motivate and inspire their people. When you’re a leader, people watch you say and do. Your actions speak more than your words. There are rewards and consequences for what you do. Your actions can build people up or tear them down. One wrong decision can have a lasting effect on an organization. We are seeing this now in our country. When should states reopen? How much should they open? What do they need to do when they do open? If any of our state or federal leaders ease restrictions too soon there could be devastating consequences.

When you’re a leader, there is an inevitable conflict in your calling. Leadership roles bring about blessings and burdens. You can’t take the positive aspects of being a leader without acknowledging the potential for challenges. Any type leader is always presented with five opportunities and five obstacles.

There is the Blessing of Influence: Leaders have power. They direct the behaviors and actions of others. Their words have meaning. Their guidance and oversight shepherds the activities of their followers. They can unleash the potential of their employees. They can encourage and support performance. When leaders use their influence for good, organizations flourish. People get things accomplished. Goals are attained. Financial outcomes are achieved. When their influence is bad it creates a negative culture, lowers performance, and damages employees job satisfaction.

There is the Burden of Responsibility: With great power comes great responsibility. Leaders are responsible for the safety and well-being of their people. They are responsible for what they do and say. One wrong decision can have detrimental effects at all levels of an organization. This is why leveraging the resources around you is so critical. Leverage your people. Leverage the insights of your peer group. Leverage the perspectives of your mentors. When there is no counsel, people struggle and fail. But in the multitude of advisors there are greater opportunities for success.

There is the Blessing of Position: There is great honor and respect that comes with being a leader. CEOs, business owners, and presidents are the face of their organizations. They represent the brand and embody the culture. They are the voice of their organizations to the community. Outside parties look to them for direction and inspiration. They are given special perks and rewards for being the leaders of their companies. There can be fame and notoriety when you sit in a position of power.

There is the Burden of Stewardship: At its most basic level, stewardship is acting upon the understanding that leadership is a temporary role which is outlasted by the lifespan of an organization. A leader is performing the act of stewardship whenever he or she is actively preparing for an organization’s future vitality. Good stewardship allows any organization to continually develop and adjust to an ever-changing world. It involves the responsible planning and management of resources. At the individual level, stewardship focuses on promoting well-being for each person on your team. One of the many ways to promote this well-being is to ensure that each individual is generally happy in his or her working environment. At the organizational level, it is about shaping the right culture. This involves a collective effort to shape how the company will operate and what it will represent to the outside world.

There is the Blessing of Selecting Talent: As a leader, you get to pick your team. You decide how diverse the team will be. You decide what talents and capabilities you need on the team. You get to select people that reflect your values. You should select people that have strengths outside your area of expertise. Talent selection is critical for any leader. When you get the right people on your team, and in your organization, things will thrive. When you bring on the wrong people it can infect the team and have lasting detrimental effects on morale, collaboration, and productivity.

There is the Burden of Developing Talent: Hiring the right talent is half of the equation. You need to invest the time to develop people. Many leaders make this mistake. They think if they get the right people in the door it will solve all their problems. You might hire people for their technical capabilities, but you have to help them get better as people. You own this as a leader. One could argue that cultivating and strengthening the talents of your people is the greatest mandate as a leader. Good leaders also identify and groom successors. They take time personally to mentor and coach others. They’re not afraid to make themselves vulnerable and foster a learning environment with their people.

There is the Blessing of Authority: As a leader, you have the final say as to what will take place with your team and organization. The buck stops with you. You need to seek insights and perspectives from others, but at the end of the day you make the call. You tell people what they need to focus on, and you keep the vision front and center for the organization. You have the power to bring about change, and you have authority to tell people when they need to stop and refocus their efforts.

There is the Burden of Decision Making: Although you sit in a position of authority, you have to use positional power in the right way. You can’t be a dictator. You can’t lead with an iron fist. You can’t make emotional decisions. What do you impacts others. The decisions you make can have a lasting impact on people. When the wrong decisions are made too quickly problems will occur. If people are the most important priority for a leader, decision making is the second most critical thing to focus on. You have to be knowledgeable about different situations and use good judgment and discernment when making the right decisions.

There is the Blessing of Followers: People want to follow strong leaders. They look up to them. They try to align their values and interests with those that they admire. People want to be inspired by their leaders. They want to know that, at the end of the day, you have their best interests at heart. They want to be encouraged and supported. They want to feel valued and that their contributions matter. They want a leader that recognizes and rewards performance.

There is Burden of Being a Role Model: You have to model the right behaviors for others. You must back your words up with actions. You have to be authentic and genuine. You have to be smart in how you do this though. You have to know when to speak and when to listen. You may have to hold back when there is something you really want to stay, but your people are not ready to hear. Then there are times when you have to tell people what they need to hear even though they may not want to hear it. This is the greatest burden of leadership – when you have to deliver the bad news.

The conflict of calling is a challenge to any leader. What leaders do right now will have lasting effects on their people, their teams, and their organizations. Their actions will shape the world after we get through this crisis. Good leaders will accept this challenge. They will understand that they are called to a higher purpose, and they will act upon this purpose with strength, commitment, and steadfast determination.

Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, a boutique consulting firm focusing on leadership development and organizational effectiveness.

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Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.