Leadership is a pain! (And so am I when I’m leading well)

Sometimes, something someone says sticks with you and bothers you for days or weeks or years. Well, several years ago, I was in a meeting with a leadership coach, Kevin Ford, and he’s just said something painful that continues to bother me: “Leadership is disappointing people at a rate they can tolerate.”
How fun does that sound? I hate disappointing people!

But it’s true. Leadership always means leading change. Maintaining status quo isn’t leadership. But what Ford was getting at is that people can only tolerate a certain level of change before they start to freak out. So, figuring out how much discomfort they can handle while neither pushing them too much or too little is the leader’s art.

In other words, it’s no fun. If you’re leading well, people will always be unhappy. Or, as Ford said, disappointed. They will always be uncomfortable, because you will always be stirring things up, just when they’re starting to get comfortable again. I guess the only comfort in this is knowing that this is in fact what leadership is all about. If people are saying they’re disappointed, that just may mean that you’re doing your job well. So, that’s nice to know ….

But sarcasm aside, it’s really helpful for me, since I tend to want to be a peace-maker. I don’t like to disappoint people. I want to push things forward without upsetting anyone, and Kevin Ford tells me that I need to give that up. The reality is that if I’m going to lead people in establishing God’s kingdom (and not their own), they’re going to be disappointed. And that has to be OK, because it means that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

The question: How do I know when people are being disappointed by the right things or the wrong things?