What Makes Leadership So Hard and Why the Best Do it Anyways

What Makes Leadership So Hard and Why the Best Do it Anyways

John Eades 08/06/2020 8
 What Makes Leadership So Hard and Why the Best Do it Anyways

Do you remember how it felt the last time you were forced to let someone go? Chances are, you felt terrible and didn’t sleep well for days.

While these feelings make you an empathetic leader with a good heart, they could unfortunately cause you to run away from leadership before you reach peak impact.

Take Jessica, an exceptional regional manager in a fast-growth company, for example. For years she embraced her role and poured into the people she had the opportunity to lead.  While she was far from perfect, her growth and development as a leader are one that any young leader would want to mimic.

Everything was going well until she and her new boss couldn’t find common ground and Covid-19 hit the business.  At first, Jessica hung in there.  She worked hard to build a stronger relationship with her new manager, and did all she could to shelter her team from the growing dissension.  But Covid-19 added pressure she didn’t feel she could handle.  Reluctantly, she asked for a demotion; moving from her leadership position back to an individual contributor role.  

While the move made logical sense, it was unfortunate for the people who grew so much under her leadership. 

Leadership is hard

There is no denying that leadership is hard.  The pressure of performance, making tough decisions, and guiding other people are just a few of the obstacles that leaders will come across. But the hardest part of leadership is this:

Leaders are required to take full responsibility for things they have little control over.

Most people avoid leadership, not because they can’t develop the skills to lead, but because it’s easier to stand outside the fire. Those that do embrace leadership in their career or in their families, often fail.  But the best leaders don’t give up because they know failure isn’t final; failure is feedback. 

If you have chosen to be a leader, now isn’t the time to give up. Your people need you more than ever. If you find yourself at a breaking point like Marie, and you don’t want to give up, here’s what you can do.

Focus on Your #1 Job as Leader

I know you think your job is to execute the tasks and devise a strategy for your team. While you absolutely have to do those requirements well, your primary role of being in a position of leadership is to elevate others.  

I define leadership in Building the Best as "someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time."

But simply knowing this definition isn't enough -- the real difference lies in living it out, because actions speak louder than words. I have yet to encounter a strong leader who isn't keenly aware of how important their actions are, as far as setting an example to the people they lead. Many are borderline fanatical about the decisions they make, and the positions they put themselves in.

Lead Right Where You Are

When leaders start to feel overwhelmed, it’s because he or she is doing too much.  They have loaded their schedule and responsibilities with so many things they can’t keep up with all of it.  

Instead of trying to boil the ocean or solve every problem, make your leadership circle of influence smaller.  When a good leader is stuck inside an unhealthy company culture they can’t fix the entire company as one person. Instead, they start with changing the environment for their own team to make it the best it can be. 

Reconnect Yourself to the Cause

It’s easy for leaders to get lost in the monotony of their everyday work, failing to consider how the work impacts people at a deeper level.  Tony Robbins famously said, “activity without purpose is the drain of your life.”  

Having a deeper purpose and cause behind your work can be tough for some leaders.  If this is an area where you struggle, remember that leadership has a built-in cause; serving other people.  Speaker and author Damon West, told me on a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, “Every one of us has the ability to be a servant leader.”

Ponder the Positives (Regardless of How Small)

While work can and absolutely should be a place that helps create positive energy for people, it is easy to lose sight of that during difficult times. A powerful, evidence-based line of research called Positive Psychology, shows why pondering the positives instead of the negatives is a good idea.  

Chris Peterson described Positive Psychology this way; “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It’s a focus on what’s right with us rather than what’s wrong.” Jon Gordon, followed that up, “being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.”

Choosing to be positive and looking for the good in things regardless of how small, is a competitive advantage and in your realm of control.  


If you have been forced to let someone go or your team has been negatively impacted by Covid-19, don't give up. Your leadership is needed more than ever.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades. 

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  • Kevin Kuznar

    I am still positive....

  • Patrick Clark

    Good read

  • Cole Jenkins

    Seeing my colleagues leave our company hurts me a lot. This pandemic is unfair.

  • Stuart McCrystal

    It's mentally exhausting

  • Debra Jefferson

    Leading a team requires patience !

  • Josh Colcombe

    Some managers are unfit to lead a team because of their difficult character and lack of compassion.

  • Rita Walker

    Excellent article

  • Sophie Wiseman

    I think almost everyone goes thru a struggle either when your young or older, smart or not so smart, no matter what part of the world you come from.

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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