If you are doing it right, leadership is uncomfortable. Not in a weird, creepy way, but in an “I have to do things I don’t want to do kind of way.” These “things” are different for everyone, but every leader has things they have to do that make them uncomfortable. I think if we are honest with ourselves we mostly uncomfortable with the same few things. We all know that getting outside of what makes us comfortable is vital for a leader but being honest about this and talking about these times will make it easier to step outside that comfort zone. The few things I get uncomfortable with or at least give me some level of anxiety are below.
Making decisions. I have no issues making a decision. I rarely, if ever, get analysis paralysis, or make premature decisions. I think I’m an above average at critical thinking. But even with high self-confidence, I still get uncomfortable making decisions. I want to make the right one, I know I will make mistakes, but what kind of mistake will I make and what cost will that mistake incur? Will it hurt the people that work for me? Will my decision set my organization back to a place that was even before I made the decision? Time will be lost, but will that lost time be worth it? The big thing with making decisions is to realize that you will make a mistake, you will screw it up from time to time. But as long as you recognize these moments early and learn from them, the lost time is not wasted. It is time well spent because you learned and will apply it the next time you face that situation.
Tough conversations (confrontation). Talking to your boss about their toxic behavior, telling a coworker they smell bad and need to shower, telling someone you like that they are doing a lousy job, or firing them. These are all very uncomfortable situations, and they never get better. The hardest for me is to tell your peer or your supervisor that they are making a mistake or doing something that is causing a problem. It is especially tricky when you know they will react poorly to your input. The best way to handle this is to provide many examples and do your best to be gentle. Taking criticism is hard but getting into a match of who makes the most mistakes will not help the situation. Give them an opportunity to respond to the criticism, but don’t get involved in a back and forth about who does what. If they want to talk about your behavior, tell them that you are more than willing to discuss it after you have resolved the current issue. Being calm and reasonable is usually the best way to deal with the confrontation.
Pressure to perform. Let’s face it; performance is why you get paid. A leader is responsible for tasks that they are not actually going to do. You have to ensure people do well and to do that you must make sure the processes are there to support high-quality work. This, above all, is uncomfortable. How do you get people to perform at a high level? How do you get them to want to do the tedious work and do it every day? Everywhere and every job is different, but listening to your people is the first step, having high standards, feeding confidence to your people and holding them accountable is a great start. Work hard and be deliberate in your actions and you will do great.