Being a leader isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. You’re probably thinking: putting your feet up on the desk and barking orders at people both sound like pretty cool ways of leading. And hey, if that’s all leading was about, then I’d be the first to sign up. So, you got a big promotion. Or you’ve been told that you’re a natural-born leader. Your ego is a bit inflated, and you get excited. One day, you’re “gonna be at the top”, the “decision-maker”, the “one who signs the checks”.
Well, I hate to bust your bubble, but leading an organization or team is not always as glamorous as it seems. Now, don’t get me wrong: leadership is a skill that you should strive for, practice, and develop. It’s one of the four pillars of management and it’s vital in today’s business world and society. These are 9 downsides of being a leader at work as outlined by Andrew J. DuBrin from the College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
1. The myth of the 40-hour work week
Say goodbye to overtime pay. Once you’re on salary. It doesn’t matter how many overtime hours you work, you won’t get a dime more (unless you get bonuses). Now this is evident in so many industries. In my current position, I have worked 50-60 hour weeks, without any overtime pay. If your job or projects are flexible, then you may be able to do some of this work from home, but you’re still not compensated for it. Even when I was teaching, if you were in the arts or sports, then you could expect to work 60-70 hour weeks. If you have kids, that means that you’re spending more time with other people’s kids than your own.
2. “May I have another please? An aspirin?”
The number of headache-inducing problems rise with every second that passes while you are a leader. This can be attributed to contingencies. Example: The project demands an intense and comprehensive marketing and advertising campaign. The launch has been expedited. Everything is due next week. Your lead graphic designer just had a baby, so is on leave. Your lead copywriter got another job. And the only thing your intern has learned is how to make a decent cup of coffee. The better the leader you are, the easier it is to handle these types of issues.
3. “Publish-” Er- I mean, “Perform or Perish”.
This can be one of the most stressful things to deal with. If the company doesn’t do well, then who’s to blame? You better believe, that if you’re a leader, the CEO s going to come gunning for you. You better pray that he has a very in-depth knowledge of the market, industry, and organization if the reason for poor overall performance is out of your control. If he or she doesn’t, then you WILL be blamed.
4. They expect miracles from peanuts.
As a leader, you will often be faced with a situation where you are responsible for a goal, that you have little control over. If you are asked to get a fully loaded web and social media marketing strategy executed, you are going to need a budget. If you’re asked to construct a building, fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and design, you are going to need some kind of budget. There isn’t a way around it. This really comes down to authority. And, no, I don’t mean YOU pay out-of-pocket and then submit expense reports. That is complete BS. No money. No work. Comprende?
5. Oh, so alone.
Be careful getting too “buddy-buddy” with your teammates. If you get promoted, you’ll be the one deciding their fates- who gets promoted, who gets fired, evaluations, the whole nine. Then what happens? The team goes out for drinks after work, and they don’t invite you. They’re actually going to talk shit about you. It’s true. Get over it. That’s why you shouldn’t hire your close friends.
6. You have to be a people person.
Man, do I hate people. Well, I really love them too. What’s a guy to do? Being a leader means that you will be dealing with people on a daily basis. This means that after you fire John, you’ll be up late at night wondering how he, his wife, and kids are going to pay for their mortgage next month. Say goodbye to college, John’s kids. You did this. Now if you can master being a people person, more power to you. Being a people person isn’t about feeling guilty about firing someone, it’s about being sure to provide employment resources and references for one of your displaced team members, a.k.a. John.
7. Politics is a bitch.
Yup, it’s in your backyard, it’s in your house, it’s in your office, and it’s probably in your pants. It’s in every office in EVERY industry. Don’t believe your pal who brags about how their job doesn’t have that much politics, because it’s all a load of crap. Start learning how to negotiate, and politics will get easier to deal with when it comes up.
8. “We just want different things”.
Conflicting goals is often a source of trouble for you in a leadership role. It is already hard enough to get everyone on the same page, but then Bob has something completely different in mind. Lots of meeting are gonna result from this one. If you’re lucky you won’t have to fire him, and you’ll still achieve your goal. What if he doesn’t budge? Well, there’s a little thing called compromise. This is why being a leader involves a mutual partnership between the leader and the follower. (Yes, I said “follower”. Good leaders are also good followers.)
9. The evil businessman.
Being a leader of a large organization or business often comes with the public perception that you’re evil, selfish, greedy, and generally an overall bad guy. “But, Alex, I’m not a bad guy.” Whatever. You are in the eyes of the “people”. You’ll get people to change their perception once they see some action. Actions always speak louder than words.
Do it. Be a leader.
Don’t let these nine downsides of being a leader discourage you. They are just a realistic view of the challenges that leaders face. Be ready to face them. Everyday. Move on. Be strong. Go lead.