The Hardest Thing in Leadership: Effecting Change

For a long time, I thought the hardest thing about being a leader was the art of giving constructive and timely feedback. I found it difficult to measure and constructively articulate someone’s performance. So it would usually come out as simply, “You’re doing great, keep it up”, even if that’s not what I truly felt deep down inside.

Over time though, I now believe that being able to effect change is the hardest thing about being in a leadership position. It’s too easy to be passive. To turn up, tend to our admin tasks, and keep things ticking over. But doing so does a huge disservice to the role of a leader. Creating change, especially when the odds are stacked against you, is the hallmark of a great leader.

Change is difficult because people do not like it. We want to maintain the status quo. Asking a team to change their ways can be an almost impossible task. Asking can be especially difficult when joining an already established team with an endless supply of “we’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work” responses.

Long-lasting change naturally takes a long time. Adding something to someone’s already full plate means they may not get to it as quickly as hoped, then maybe it’s forgotten, intentionally or not, so it never gets done. We repeat our ask, and it feels like we can never get it through no matter how hard we try. It’s disheartening. We eventually ask if the change is worth it, whether it needs to be done, and if we should just let it go. It’s a slippery slope of negative thinking. Then we become distracted and chase something else, leaving behind a trail of half-forgotten dreams.

Ultimately it’s our role as leaders to effect change. To actively improve the situation we find ourselves in. If we don’t persist, if we don’t push through the discouragement, then we miss the opportunity to do right by our teams, do right by the organisation we work for, and ultimately achieve great things.