You’re Not Crazy; Leadership is Hard

Published August 6, 2015

It’s great to be back in South Barrington! I’ve been attending the Global Leadership Summit for many years and always find the content relevant, applicable and life-changing. No other event has shaped my leadership more than the Summit. Many of my colleagues at Chick-fil-A would agree. That’s why we’ve sent over a thousand leaders to this event over the years. It’s also why many of us hold these dates as the cornerstone of our annual development plans. The following post captures my thoughts on why the Summit is a must-attend event for me… Leadership is hard! 

Leadership is hard! You may read these words and think: “Is this supposed to be news?” It was to me. As a young leader, I had the misplaced belief that if I learned to lead well, it would be easy. What I’ve discovered – if I learn to lead well, I’ll be more effective and have greater impact, but it still won’t be easy.


Does leadership have to be hard?

Yes, the role we play will always be hard. That’s what we signed up for. And, if we were honest with ourselves, we’d probably confess, the difficulty factor is one reason we love to lead – we love a challenge! Here are some of the reasons leadership is hard…


We’re Creating the Future – To envision and create something that doesn’t exist is both exhilarating and exceedingly difficult. Not only are we charged with seeing the unseen, we must then help others see it as clearly as we do; then, chart the course and marshal the resources to get there. This is challenging work!


Change is Hard – You and I understand that progress is always preceded by change. We also know what got us here won’t get us where we want to go. Therefore, change will be required. Generally, people don’t like change, even if it’s needed. The defenders of yesterday stand guard over every outdated method and practice. Leaders are paid to create positive change and that’s hard to do.


There’s Always a New Problem – If something is broken, the problem is how to fix it. If we’re not getting the results we want, that’s the problem. If things are going well, the new problem is how to accelerate the growth curve. Bill Hybels reminded me of this when he said, “The reward you get for solving a problem is a bigger problem to solve.” The supply of problems before us is infinite!


Someone is Always Unhappy – If we’re leading well, it is virtually impossible to do so while making everyone happy. Either the people who don’t like change, or the people who don’t share our vision of the future; or the supporters of the old strategies that need to be updated, there will always be those dissatisfied with our leadership. If you need everyone to be happy, you should be a party planner not a leader.


We Must Keep Growing – It is our capacity to grow that determines our capacity to lead. Personal growth requires time, energy, dollars, focus, vulnerability, discipline and humility. We must always grow in our knowledge of our industry, our people, our business and ourselves. The leader’s role makes life-long learning a non-negotiable. This makes leadership a very demanding profession.


There is No Finish Line – This was my favorite NIKE slogan of all time. It’s also the capstone reason leadership is hard. Leaders are never satisfied and they’re never finished. We possess a never-ending dissatisfaction with the status quo. We’re always looking for the next hill to climb, or the next opportunity to exploit. We never finish the work, because it can’t be finished. The relentlessness of our calling is like the tide… it never stops.


As I conclude this post, you may be wondering why I wrote it. Maybe it was a bit of therapy for me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve talked with other leaders recently about the enormity of the task we face. I’m guessing it’s a combination. However, my ultimate goal here today is to encourage you.


If you’re feeling challenged by your role, you are not alone – and you’re not crazy. Leadership is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it shouldn’t be.


If you’re called to lead, embrace the struggle and enjoy the journey!

About the Author
Mark Miller

Mark Miller

Vice President of High-Performance Leadership


Mark Miller began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. Since joining the corporate staff in 1978, he has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, Quality and Customer Satisfaction, Training, and Leadership Development. He is a best-selling author with over one million books in print. His most recent book, Win the Heart, was released in March 2019.

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