People often say, “Leadership is a lonely place.” I certainly understand why many believe that. As a leader, you must make tough decisions to implement your vision. Resistance can be demoralizing and frustrating, especially when you see clearly how you can move from where you are to where you want to be but feel like you’re getting pushback at every turn. This environment contributes to feeling alone.
I had a meeting with a young leader who was trying to create change. He told me that he often feels alone. He explained the many challenges he’s faced trying to create transformational change. Such challenges are amplified for minorities and women in a white-male-dominated culture, where people can sometimes resent the position that you are in because of their own close-mindedness and bias, resulting in disrespect for your authority.
I personally have been in situations where I have worked to create change and received resistance and even slander and sabotage. Although I have had moments when I felt alone and discouraged, I have been able to overcome such moments by leveraging the five techniques below. These tactics have helped to empower my leadership and make it less lonely and more impactful. I am confident that they will help you, as well.
Don’t take things personally
One of my favorite books is “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. He reminds people not to take anything personally. He encourages people to realize that what others say and do reflects their own reality. That is an important perspective because not everyone is kind. I often ask myself not what is wrong with someone, but what has happened to them. That puts me in the position of empathy and allows me to not take things personally.
Have a mentor/coach
Having a coach or mentor — someone that you can bounce things off, someone who can support you when you are right and correct you when you are wrong — is critical. I find it helpful to have positive people around me who give me perspective and help to lead me in the right direction. This could be a friend, family member, other leader, etc.
Count your blessings
One way to create joy and remain motivated is to count your blessings daily. When you are more grateful, you are in a better position to connect with yourself and others. This practice can do wonders, as we all have many things to be grateful for.
Leverage your faith
As a Christian, my faith plays a big part in all that I do. Having a higher power in my life reminds me that I am never alone and empowers me to lead courageously despite challenges or setbacks. I know through faith that everything will work out for my good. Whatever your faith, leverage it to empower yourself as a leader.
Remember your why
Remembering why you do what you do is the engine that keeps you motivated no matter what and keeps you connected. When what you are doing is bigger than you and you are leading to a higher goal, this focus keeps you energized, connected and motivated.
I encourage you to leverage some of these simple practices to keep you motivated and even create your own that work for you. At the end of the day, you are not alone. ●
Carlos T. Carter is president and CEO of Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh