Being a leader implies that you are at the top. At the head of the line. People looking up to you for direction. Being a boss whose words are final. Where exercising their power is expected of them. Being the best problem solver. The calm and patient one in crisis. And so on……
This imagery presumes that leaders are in front. That their actions and words go in only one direction —- down. It’s implied that they have the most freedom for they don’t have to report to anyone.
People newly placed in leadership situations naively assume this to be true. For as individuals, not in leadership roles, your opinions and thoughts are always right. With no consequence towards others. Assuming a leadership role, mistakenly gives you the feeling, that your role now gives your “right” thoughts & opinions power.
But leadership doesn’t live this way. Leadership always places you in the middle of two opposite pulling forces. Between organizational goals and the limitations of the people you are working with. Between a vision for what can be and the lack of resources to accomplish it. Between the noise of what others believe versus what you believe to be true.
On a personal level, between the demands of family life and your professional career. Between your emotional versus rational sides. Or between what you want to achieve and the bad habits you cannot abandon. On a deeper level, balancing what is morally right versus what others want you to do.
Leadership, when it is strong, infers strength. Where comprises may occur but only for a greater good. Where urgent is never replaced by what is needed. No matter if it will take more time. Good leadership absorbs everything around it, trying to find the best way to move forward.
Being in the middle can be a frustrating place for many. For they have spent too much of their lives making themselves first while never setting out to accomplish something different or new that provided a challenge for them to reach. Especially when it involved working with others. Especially when they only see themselves or their selfish personal interests in a given situation.
Context, diverse perspectives, the ability to listen, patience, taming your own ego and finding clarity are all skills needed when you find yourself in the middle as a leader. It’s finding the path on foot to move forward, without a bulldozer, that can make you more effective when others look to you to lead them.