from Hammer vs. Guide

Leadership is NOT about being comfortable. It’s the art of being UNCOMFORTABLE.

Why is that?

Leaders tend to do things others can’t, don’t, or won’t do. Leaders step into the fray to help resolves questions, concerns, issues, etc. Leaders may feel uncomfortable about getting a task done — and they may or may not show it outwardly — but they will find a way to get the task done. Why? Because it has to be done.

What Makes Someone A Leader?

In a previous blog post, I wrote about six aspects of what makes someone a leader: empathy, compassion, flexibility, critical thinking, inspiration, and deciding to decide (make a choice). These are some of the behavioral skills that can be learned and are worth developing for leadership. There are several more, borrowed from a number of sources, but all are relevant to leadership development.

    •  Delegation. Leaders don’t have to do it all themselves. Work with your team and get it done.
    •  Influence. People will want to help you if they believe in you. Influence their decision through communication and transparency.
    •  Team Building. Be willing to grow your team beyond this project. Develop other leaders. Help them reach their potential and imagine beyond that.
    •  Communication. Communicating both effectively AND clearly so the details and expectations are understood is critical. If a team member has a question, be open to answering and teaching.
    •  Strategize. This is beyond giving a motivational or inspirational speech. It’s about those words also helping to organize the steps needed to get to the solution.
    •  Transparency. Honesty is always the better policy, but not to the point of hurting someone or making them feel undervalued. Leaders understand the balance and strive to use it. Show people who you are, and what you believe in. Embody it.
    •  Integrity. Follow your moral compass. Doing what you say you’re going to do. Unite your team for those who will benefit from the project getting done.
    •  Courage. Being willing to do what needs to get done and doing it right, in the face of negativity and adversity, is no small task. This takes courage. Be brave for others.
    •  Risk. Embrace it. The decisions you make are not going to be popular, but leadership isn’t about a popularity contest. It’s about doing what’s right, being open to paths that solve the problem, and understanding others are depending on you.
    •  Gratitude. This term seems to be a buzzword these days, and the strength behind it is so inspirational. You can’t get it all done alone, and it wouldn’t be fun without inviting others to the party. Be grateful for the challenge that was dealt with, and be grateful for the team working on the challenge with you.

What Does Leadership Have To Do With Comfort?

The short answer: Nothing.

That leads us to the longer consideration: Do the above-mentioned qualities of a leader make you uncomfortable?

If these do, you’re in the right place. You’re good to go.

As I wrote in a previous post, managers do their best to manage risk, problems…basically, damage control. That behavior can turn some managers into hammers. Hammers look for nails to hit — figuratively speaking, in the case of people. A manager being a hammer has to manage potential issues, which could include problem-solving if the solution goes outside the box. Thinking outside the box makes hammers very uncomfortable.

The reason is hammers manage situations, not necessarily people.

Leaders work by managing people and the task or project. Leaders know others depend on their solutions, their “outside-the-box” strategies, and their absolute belief and trust in their team. They don’t necessarily work for people; rather, they work with people, encouraging critical thinking, collaboration, and personal growth.

A leader also knows they may have to work longer hours, do some self-study, and probably work with some people who will never like them, but recognize everyone is on the team. If the solution is created to make the team’s job easier and more comfortable, that’s okay but only to a point.

One example is technology. If a solution to customer service emails and calls is to make everyone fill out a trouble ticket so it records, that’s only half of the solution. The potential to “take your hands off the wheel” is very high. Trouble tickets could be ignored; responses delayed, or worse, a canned “we’ll get back to you” is delivered instead to the customer. From there, the solution could spiral into a hamster wheel of the never-ending cycle of “fill out this form”, “tell us the problem in detail (with pictures, if applicable)”, to a thank-you page with some additional links that could help and a question asking if your problem was solved and if not, why not, and the cycle repeats again.

Don’t believe me? Read Facebook posts about people’s profiles that were hacked, how long it took to get that resolved, and was the person happy with the resolution, including the length of time it took to get done. And that’s just Facebook — just one area of tech.

Is Failure An Option?

One more facet: a leader isn’t afraid to fail. To lead, embrace failure. Fail as often as needed until the solution works!

Now THAT’S super-uncomfortable to some!

Research Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. All have failed at one time or another trying to get their companies and tech solutions in place.

Steve Jobs insisted his Mac computers would have rounded corners, and wouldn’t give up until Steve Wozniak came along and solved it. He also wouldn’t budge on making tech more easily accessible to developers; he didn’t want his people to constantly deal with “I broke it” mentalities. Jobs DID want his computers used by many, yet wouldn’t give in on price. He pioneered the use of computers in classrooms. Jobs did the selling, and Wozniak was the genius behind the tech. In fact, Jobs was famous for giving people what they thought they wanted, like the iTunes software, followed by the iPod and locking the software behind his systems. People wanted it, so they became instant fans. Brilliant.

Bill Gates developed the other software, Windows, to compete with the iOS system and Mac/Apple products. He made his tech and computers more easily accessible by making the price more affordable for the average consumer. This was also brilliant in two ways: not only was Apple seen as “ridiculously expensive”, it allowed both to be kept in front of consumers. The biggest drawbacks that I’ve personally experienced:

  1. Lack of flexibility. Gates didn’t care if his computers or software broke; in fact, I think he depended on it. For him, the world’s consumers were both his target market and test subjects. While Jobs believed in building it once and being good (though could be improved), Gates believed in keeping consumers spending on his tech. It worked and his software was deemed “successful”.
  2. Easy to hack. Unfortunately, Windows is easier to hack than iOS. While you may hear Apple products being hacked once in a while, it’s almost a monthly event with Windows/Microsoft, if not increasing in frequency.
  3. Software incompatibility. Jobs wanted software and peripherals that worked with his systems. With peripherals (i.e., external hard drives), he wanted “plug and play” products so people could update the computer, but the peripherals would still work. Gates’ Microsoft Office is not always compatible with other programs and is incompatible with older versions of its own software. For example, if you have a version of Microsoft PowerPoint, for example, and you upgrade, create a file, then email that file to someone, that person has to have the same version, or else text and image alignments will shift. Also, fonts don’t embed and colors don’t transfer to professional printing, despite claims otherwise.

Elon Musk pioneers the EV sector as the CEO of Tesla. He also is the CEO/founder of SpaceX/Falcon, the newest owner of X (f.k.a. Twitter), and had a hand in developing PayPal, Zip2, SolarCity, and got things started with web-based phone calls, now known as VoIP. Was he always successful? No.

Musk doesn’t fear failure. That’s why he succeeds.

What If I Fail?

Denzel Washington once said, “If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying.” He has an excellent point. Hard work, determination, critical thinking, and perseverance all play into our decision-making process. Mr. Washington built his career by getting his degree in journalism and the arts, and taking acting jobs until he landed in the TV series “E.R.” Read more about Denzel Washington and his accomplishments by clicking or tapping this text.

That’s the easy part…you probably will! It’s okay, nobody is perfect, so nobody gets it right on the first try…or second…or even the 3rd! If people greater than us can fail and still be considered successful, then why can’t we?

When a decision seems hard to make, it’s easier to sit back and let someone else decide what to do. Many do this because they’re comfortable allowing others to decide what’s best for them. Leaders make the hard decisions because they’re comfortable taking the risk. That doesn’t mean leaders are dictators; again, it depends on their decisions.

The key is what they learned from the failure. For example (and you’ve probably heard it), Thomas Edison had nearly 1,000 patents, but he wanted to make an incandescent light bulb that worked. He failed multiple times, over and over…UNTIL, one day, he succeeded.

What did Edison learn? Many ways in which to NOT make a light bulb.

He only needed one way to work, to succeed, consistently searching, experimenting, trying many combinations — and he finally found the one that worked. For more about Edison, please click or tap this text and read on.

If you have that kind of determination, what would you succeed at doing?

What’s Next?

Where you go from here is a question I leave to you, the reader. Everything is about choice: what to wear, wash, eat, where to drive, how to get to a destination, who to (or not to) vote for, etc. It’s up to us individually, independently, to figure out what makes sense for us, and not allow someone else to decide for us if we can help it (parents with young kids get a pass).

We can seek counsel, certainly, but the decision is still ours.

Every choice has either a positive or negative consequence. For example, at your favorite eatery, you may decide to order and eat a ham & cheese sandwich on wheat bread with light mayo and a slice of cheese because you like that sandwich. Your companion may decide that’s not good for their health and order a salad with cucumbers, croutons, a light sprinkling of cheese, and vinaigrette dressing.

What’s the difference? Unless your companion influenced your decision, the only difference is the meal. Unless you seek permission to do something different or waive your right to choose, it’s still your choice.

Be brave! Step into your leadership and keep building your confidence. It all starts with the choices you make. Will all the choices be “right”? I don’t know, and it’s not up to me to judge; it’s up to you. If you succeeded (define success), then it was the right choice. If you didn’t succeed, what did you learn from the try?

NOW…it’s your turn.


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  • Lisa Raymond

    Lisa Raymond is the owner and creative genius of Visibly Media. She has been in graphic and website design since 1997, social media management & marketing since 2007, married over 30 years, 4 children, 4 grandbabies, and Queen in her organized realm of chaos! Lisa & Visibly Media do not use any AI in the creation of marketing strategies, posts, and graphics.

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