Leaders, Don’t Expect Everyone to LIKE You

Listening to the radio news this week, I heard again that President Obama’s approval rating is continuing to drop. Whether it is his handling of economic issues, healthcare, congress, or a post Labor Day address to school children, we are a nation divided.  Some people love him, some people don’t, and many are stuck somewhere in between.

Now, the purpose of this note is not to open a discussion on whether President Obama is worthy of approval or not.  We’re going in a different direction.  We’re exploring what to expect as a leader in the business world.

I have been through my share of leadership training throughout my career, and there is one thing they rarely if ever tell you.

When you are a leader driving change or making tough decisions – there may be people who will REALLY not like you.

It does not matter how great you are as a speaker, how authentic you are as a person, how charismatic a leader you are, or even how solid your strategy is.

Eventually you will bring about a change that threatens someone’s sense of balance, personal well being, or sense of security through your decisions, and they will make their displeasure known – LOUD AND CLEAR.

Sometimes you can predict and plan for it, and sometimes you can’t.  Blow ups can occur over major issues and decisions or the seemingly trivial.

But be prepared – sooner or later is bound to happen!

This illustration from Pollster.com really helps put things in perspective.  The President’s approval rating hit its peak after the election but before he was actually making any true presidential decisions.    Once his decisions.

This challenge is not unique to Presidential Leadership.

All Summer, legislative leaders across the country have struggled with tough decisions on budgets that won’t balance, whether to raise taxes or not, and where and how much to cut in programs that directly effect no win issues like education, social services, and hampering economic recovery by a heavy tax burden – remember – no economic recovery – no job recovery!

Difficult decisions and cuts lead to public outcries from all sides, as exemplified in this July 25th article and video from CNN.Money.com.

And, as soon as they think they have the problem solved, new gaps open or new conflicts arise, including Gubernatorial Vetoes.

Today’s environment is definitely not a pleasant one for political leaders at any level.

Shifting to Business

As business leaders, we deal with our own sets of issues and decisions every day.

Some are large and some are small, but at any level of authority we often have to make tough decisions that will not be viewed positively by everyone.

Here are some lessons I have learned along my leadership journey:

The higher up you are on the leadership ladder, the broader the reach and scope of your decisions and the more people you affect positively and negatively.

The closer an unfavorable action get’s to an individual’s personal life, the more vocal the dislike can become.

Listen to your detractors – sometimes they are voicing something you need to hear that your friends and supporters are not telling you.

Deal with detractors respectfully, even if they do not return the courtesy.

You can’t take it personally – even if their attacks turn personal.

Logic rarely trumps emotion when change hits close to home for people.  Especially when that emotion is concern or fear.

While you may try to work with your detractors, you have to eventually to move on.  To paraphrase President Harry Truman, as a leader, the buck will stop with you and you will need to do what you think is best.  And then, you live with it.

Luckily, most leaders will have more supporters than not.  But eventually, somewhere along the way – you will find those few that will not come around.  And when you do, just remember, you are not alone.

Most of us have been there at one time or another.  It comes with the territory.

Thanks for stopping by.   Stay Tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker

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