I am, at heart, someone who loves to have fun and enjoy myself. This does not mean I can’t be serious when the situation calls for it. In fact my family members have been known to tell me to lighten up, take things easy, chill out. But spending my time doing things that are meaningful and fulfilling, that add value to the world around me, brings me joy and pleasure. I am also, by nature, an optimist and an extrovert. This makes me, for better or worse, a natural cheerleader and people-pleaser. Whether it’s encouraging my kids or spouse when they face challenges or telling a member of my leadership team that they should just “go for it,” when they have an idea for a program or fundraiser, I just can’t help myself. The glass must always be half full, darn it! Thankfully, I have a spouse and others in my support network who are realists and who can bring me down to earth when it’s time for some tough love.
This brings me to the hardest leadership lesson I’ve learned so far. Sometimes it is out of my control to make things fun and joyful, for me and for those around me. There are difficult decisions that must be made and not everyone will be happy with the outcome. Being a leader means shouldering the burden and being willing to face criticism, and to answer for your actions or the actions of others.
I recently had to make such a decision, for the good of the organization. I did my homework, consulted advisors both inside and outside. I listened to opinions on both sides of the issue. In the end, I made a decision that disappointed and hurt someone I care about. I’m not going to lie, it sucks! I do not like being that person who can’t please everyone. And while I stand by my decision and feel confident I did the right thing, it has been tough going.
During the worst of it, someone whose opinion I trust and whose insights I value, said, “Being a leader is not all fun and games.” An obvious thing, really, but that simple statement brought me comfort. It gave me perspective and the permission to not please everyone all the time. It also helped me to see that making a good decision, the right decision, can be satisfying on its own. Even if I have to disappoint people, something I abhor, there is some pleasure to be had in taking the long view, in stepping up to lead an organization and knowing that this too shall pass.
This latest trial has left me with some scars and bruises, but I feel stronger and more confident as a leader. I know that next time, and there most definitely will be a next time, I will be better prepared for the pain. And while leadership isn’t all fun and games all the time, it is an experience I treasure and one I truly enjoy.
Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation. The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors. Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com. If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.
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