The Extremes of Leadership
Ever have one of those days?
I had one today, and the two events juxtaposed, hours apart, have left me raw for so many reasons.
I received a hard bit of news late this afternoon about a colleague, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so hurt. Hurt to the core. Maybe it’s that female part of me that screamed “Don’t cry!” that left me wandering around in a daze for hours. I wanted to cry but simply didn’t have the energy, and certainly didn’t want that side of me to show. I’m not really one to cry. Well, maybe at a sad commercial. Gray’s Anatomy two weeks ago. A sappy love story. A tribute to heroism.
Years ago, as a first year principal, I was on the receiving end of very difficult news and I recall the tears welling up in a meeting and they flowed. Try as I might to bite my tongue, it was the days out from the event that I knew would bring even more pain. Maybe I just needed to toughen myself up by letting the pain surface around what I thought were trusted friends. And the tongue-lashing I received from a female colleague was what I didn’t expect. “You never let them see you cry. It’s a sign of weakness,” she added.
I felt that pain again this afternoon. It’s the kind where you don’t want to eat and wonder if you’ll get a decent night of sleep in the coming weeks. Really bad news sometimes does that you to. It’s hard when you trust and you’re let down. Really let down. And that message of weakness rolled around in my head.
When you lead, you trust. Some earn the trust, and some are given the trust until we learn that we need to hold the cards back a little more. I’m generally the trusting type.
Today I learned that trust hurts.
Then the mail was delivered at my home, the clank of the mailbox top shutting some two hours after it should have. Maybe the mailman was having a bad day too, a Monday nonetheless. My Mondays usually bring good news, so my optimism was already waning.
And there is was. An envelope. A graduation announcement. Upon opening it, out fell a note. A heartfelt message.
I just want to express how thankful I am for your guidance and support over the years. It has been a long journey to get to this point and I couldn’t have done it without you. Your endless letters of recommendation, valued advice and continued encouragement have not gone unnoticed. I am so appreciative for everything you have done, especially your unwavering faith in me.
Another lesson in leadership. It is okay to trust, to be human, to believe in others, to cry. Maybe fate knew I needed that letter in today’s mail.
Sometimes when we lead, we don’t know if we make a difference. But the letter in today’s mail reminded me…..leadership isn’t easy. It is often lonely. Painful. We don’t see the fruits of our labors as quickly as we would like, and sometimes aren’t around long term to really see what the impact is of what we do.
But amidst the pain, today there is little glimmering of hope. And the tears flowed.
(reshared from LinkedIn - May 2015)