Responsibility is a very funny thing. It puts you in a position where you can make the difficult decisions, move towards a vision that you are personally invested in and share this with the people around you in the hope that they will walk with you. My leadership style has evolved over the past few years to be more inclusive – to try and empower everyone to fill my shoes regardless of where they stand – it is called servant leadership.
A servant leader is one who chooses to work for his team and not the other way around. It requires an individual to value and weigh up the opinions of those around them, without being scared to make the tough calls when need be. And I think the most effective way to take on any sort of responsibility. To ensure that you value the humanity of the human beings that break their backs for the good of the cause.
However, it is a very lonely experience. The one thing that I have noticed about taking on responsibility this year is that you stand alone and at the front. There are no safety nets or comfort blankets. Whether I have liked it or not, every decision has been a risk that needs to be taken, without being able to make people happy and learning to justify each and every element. It has been a fight against myself and sometimes others. There are no easy wins.
I have lost friends and gained colleagues. The lines become so blurred that you become the face of the responsibility, and that every conversation is about work. The positives are taken for granted with the understanding that these are expectations which needed to be met. The negatives are riddled with ridicule, criticism and personal attack – and you become a brick wall for people to bounce their frustrations off. You wear your heart on your sleeve, but you must keep your emotions locked away. People want to see strength from those at the top, albeit at any personal cost.
Some responsibilities in themselves are a poison chalice, with only the passion and enthusiasm for the cause being the motivation to carry on. Because there is the potential for you to do something amazing, you have to wade through the tough waters first. It doesn’t get easier, but you become tougher, with the conviction that you are doing the right thing; even if it means upsetting those people who matter to you the most.
As a leader, you won’t be loved. You will not be praised for your good decisions, but will be responsible for the bad ones. There are no prizes for the process, and the outcomes are important to share with the team, rather than take on yourself. You will not be thanked, and people will inadvertently take you for granted. A servant leader will get the job done, but no one will really know what happens behind the scenes.
Everyone who fulfils their responsibility will understand these hard truths. It will not have been what they signed up for, but what inevitably becomes reality. We must forgive those that make rash decisions and don’t understand the implications; we must protect those that are vulnerable and need support; and finally, we must love those that won’t love us back. It is our jobs, the burden that we inadvertently chose to accept when we took on the responsibility.
The silver lining is that the people around you will finally realise how much time and effort you went to, to make them happy and spur on their success. When all of the petty arguments evaporate as the wider vision is achieved.
This is a fantastic day and you will cherish it. But by the time they realise, you will have inevitably moved on, and it will be too late.
You are not important, but the vision is. You won’t be loved, but you will be successful. This is the curse of leadership itself.