On leadership

Conflicting opinions. Confusing data. Unexpected developments. Interpersonal conflict. We sometimes miss the bliss of the vision and despair. I’m not sure I can do this. You respond immediately, “It seems an impossible thing. Of course it’s hard, but we are going to do this together and I’ll explain how.”

~ Rands from, https://randsinrepose.com/archives/the-way-i-heard-it-was/

There’s an array of skills that a leader has to master to be a good leader. Explaining things is one of those skills. Everyone who knows me even slightly, knows I’m great at explaining things. But as I try to lead more, I’m realizing that no, actually I’m a mediocre—possibly even a poor—explainer. I’ve recently realized that vastly too much of my explanations are about attempting to control other people’s reactions, (or their opinions,) to what I’m suggesting.

“Take this jacket. It’s lightweight, water proof and will keep you dry if we encounter rain. And rain is likely on the mountain we’re setting out to climb. I once went without such a jacket, and I wound up wet and miserable. The color also happens to be one you normally like, and it looks good. It’s got lots of pockets, which are all taped and the design of the flaps keeps water out.” (Alas, a decade ago, that explanation would have also unpacked what “taped” means, and why it’s a desirable feature.)

But that’s way too much information, all intended to convince the listener. It’s a sign of attempted consensus building. It’s all hedging. It’s all me sharing the reasons why you too would make the same decision—to bring this jacket—if you too had all the information and perspective that I have.

A real leader would say, “This is the correct jacket to take, considering the weather we are going to face when we climb that mountain.” Because then, if it turns out it is in fact not the correct jacket, then I’m on the hook for that error. Which is exactly where—on the hook that is—a true leader should be.