Even Leaders Get the Blues

We all fall for the "grass is greener" thing. Employees wish for their boss's power and authority, managers are jealous of executive pay and perks, and workers dream of starting their own business.

The only "grass is greener" scenario you never hear about happens more frequently than most would imagine. That's when leaders have days I can only describe as demoralizing and depressing.

Look, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that anyone should cry for those who make the rules, not to mention the big bucks. That said, leaders shoulder a great deal of responsibility, and the stress and disappointment can be almost crushing at times.

I recently happened upon a post that brought back some memories I'd just as soon forget. In "Leadership Caffeine: A Mostly Thoughtful Guide to Surviving Bad Leadership Days," consultant and writer Art Petty shines a rare but compassionate light on those in power:

Consider These Less Than Joyous Leadership Occasions:
  • One of your top players and someone that you've invested a great deal of time mentoring announces that she is resigning.
  • You just spent most of your day justifying your team's existence to upper management.
  • In spite of knowing better, you lost it and snapped at someone that truly didn't deserve that reaction. (No one deserves that reaction.)
  • You spent the day deciding who gets laid off and who doesn't.
  • One of your team's major projects blew up and you spent the day as a human shield while your group took shots from everywhere in the organization.
  • Your 360-degree feedback suggested that you have more than a few opportunities to improve.
  • Speaking of feedback, you managed to end up with two people crying in your office today. You thought about it yourself.
  • At 8:00 a.m., you saw the competitor's announcement of the game-changing new product. Your deodorant failed by 11:00 a.m. when you were explaining to the executives yet again why you didn't have a good response to the competitor.
Having lived through every one of these scenarios, not to mention quite a few others, I can attest to how draining and depressing those days can be. Just because a company has invested in you and depends on you doesn't mean your confidence, optimism, and drive don't occasionally abandon you.

Art offers 7 suggestions for those days when you'd just as soon throw in the towel:

  1. Every problem or crisis is an opportunity to build your leadership skills along with your confidence and credibility.
  2. Problems create teachable opportunities. Don't waste these opportunities.
  3. It's the challenges that you and your team conquered that you will remember.
  4. Remember that you don't have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Ask for help.
  5. People aren't programmed to act and respond in ways that always fit your plans.
  6. Be thankful for feedback that says that you can improve.
  7. Leaders earn dividends over the long term.
My method for dealing with this stuff is usually to whine to my wife and drink heavily. Come to think of it, it might actually be cathartic to drudge up some of those horrible old memories, not to mention illuminating to share my worst days as an executive with you, faithful readers. Stay tuned.