Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was easy to become a great leader? That’s what all kinds of gurus promise. They offer us books and audios and videos and speeches that promise that if we do this one thing, or believe that way, or follow these four steps, success will be ours, like magic.
I’m sure you’ve read some of their stuff, and I know I have. Some of the promises and advice almost make sense. Some are so general that you can’t figure out what you should do. Others are laughable.
The worst boss I ever had gave everyone the lecture about keeping your desk clean and that the way to succeed was to have a thin watch and patent leather shoes. I’m not making that up. I couldn’t make that up.
Being A Boss Is Hard Work
If you’re a boss, someone responsible for the performance of a group, you’ve got a lot of hard work to do every day. You work in a complex system, filled with people and all their foibles. There are lots of moving parts and everything affects everything else. You must be concerned about accomplishing the mission but also caring for the people. And you have to be concerned about getting the job done today but making sure that your team can get the job done tomorrow, too.
It’s not easy. So, why should learning to do it well be easy?
Embrace the Grind
Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You’re just not going to do it by magic. No one thing will grant you success. And success will not come easily or quickly.
American football players talk about “embracing the grind.” For them, it means working every day in the weight room and on the practice field and doing film study. For you, it means making a conscious effort to improve your performance and make a little progress every day.
Don’t expect to be comfortable either. Learning to do new things and do things in a different way is never comfortable. If it is, you’re not pushing yourself.
A Long Journey One Step at A Time
The journey to greatness is a long one, but you make it one step at a time. If you take a break to sit by the road, you don’t make any progress. If you expect some magical intervention, you’re likely to be disappointed. Instead, you have to take little steps every day and get a little better every day.
Making the Journey
Start by thinking about what great leadership is like. You’ve probably experienced it. You have role models and mentors that you can use as a guide for what will work.
Figure out what you need to improve first. You may get some help from a mentor or a coach. You will probably figure some of it out on your own, bouncing ideas off people who care about you.
Figure out what you need to do first thing tomorrow to move closer to where you want to be. Then try your best to improve and, at the end of the day, evaluate how you did and plan what you’ll do the next day.
If you believe there’s an easy way to greatness, you’re easy prey to the hucksters peddling their magic leadership snake oil. So, take control of your development and make the long journey to greatness one small step at a time.