The Hardest Part of Leadership

Not too long ago, I decided to get radical.  I changed jobs, I’m starting a new business, and I found several ways to get my hands dirty.  All of this change excites me and energizes me.  But nothing could prepare me for what’s been the hardest part of leadership I’ve encountered thus far.

And that is the move from Quarterback to Coach.  It’s working through the emotions of realizing you are no longer “do-er”.  It’s being aware that a certain amount of pride was tied to all that hard work, and a “win” now looks different. And it’s getting real with yourself about how to feel successful as priorities change.

There comes a point in a career path where people move from getting the work done themselves to overseeing a team of amazing people who do the work. In my previous role where I lead a team, I still had parts of every project that were my responsibility. With this job change, things are different. I’m responsible for much, but less involved in the day to day projects; something I realize now how much I liked.

I quickly learned there is no class or course, or chat with someone older and wiser that prepares a doer with how to turn that off.  I’ve watched peers fail at moving to the coaching position and know it results in demotivated staff, nervous leadership, and early departures of qualified employees.  Knowing that potential for failure made me eager to overcome this hurdle and build a team of excited, hungry players who want to win together.

I wish there were five tips I could list for how to make this transition easy.  I’m still in the thick of learning it (and sometimes, struggling with it).  But I know the struggle means the results will be better.  Honoring the MVP has always been easy.  Stepping off the field…that takes a whole new set of skills.

What has been the hardest part of leadership for you? How’d you break through?

9 thoughts on “The Hardest Part of Leadership

  1. The hardest part of leadership for me is the willingness to step out and blaze a trail when the naysayers are many and loud. The voice of fear that says, “What is they never come around? What if you have to just accept things the way they are?” lurks around every corner. I often remind myself that I play for an audience of One, as Os Guinness says. It’s good to have a reason to remember that. Thanks for your post! I’m excited for your journey.

  2. I was talking about something similar with a friend last night. I called it the three levels of leadership:

    Level 1: Leading yourself to produce results
    Level 2: Leading others to produce results
    Level 3: Leading those who lead others to produce results.

    Great post, Jen.

    1. Mike,

      You always make it so easy! Moving from 1 to 2 was easier than the move from 2 to 3, but I’ve always loved a great adventure. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

  3. Jenn –

    I have been leading leaders for 15 years and still have not got it completely figured out. For folks like us that started at the bottom and worked our way up, we know how to do it “right” and when you see it not being done the way you think it should be you want to jump in. Some times you have to jump in, but it often amazes me how others have a different way and more effective way of doing things. And that’s when I am glad I trusted my folks.

  4. That’s so true! I had never thought of that as a genuine struggle… I often found myself having trouble deligating the tasks to others because in my head I knew what I wanted and how I wanted it to get there and it was just easier to complete the task as well.

    Losing control is a difficult task… But easier when you recognize it’s a problem! Thanks for sharing!

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