2 “Cruel” Things Every Great Leader MUST Do

Being a great leader takes courage and compassion, but that doesn’t always mean “being nice.”

Yes, treating others with respect is essential in our more evolved, more inclusive, more enlightened modern workplace, but let’s be honest —  sometimes the most respectful thing you can do is tell someone exactly what they DON’T want to hear.

Doing so isn’t about being callous or cold … it’s about being honest.

And honestly stating aloud the thing everyone else is afraid to say is rarely easy. But, to truly transform your team and achieve optimal outcomes for your company, you — their “fearless” leader —  must be brave enough to do these two seemingly “cruel” things:

1. Know where to place the “blame”

Your team just missed a critical project deadline and deliverables to the client were less than stellar. But at the team meeting, all you hear from your people are excuses. And surprise, surprise — by their account, the shoddy work put forward is everybody else’s fault but their own.

So, how do you address the situation? Of course, the easy thing to do is make a power play and lash out by either throwing a few individual people under the proverbial bus, or by berating them collectively as a team. But, doing so kills camaraderie and connection, and further escalates their defensiveness and passing of blame.

It’s time to name the elephant in the room the real issue hindering success.  

You’ll no doubt have a clear sense of how your team made mistakes or dropped the ball along the way, but naming the real causation requires you, as their leader, to self-reflect first.

Have you grown numb to holes or weaknesses in your own plan or process?

Perhaps the sense of “healthy competition” you’ve encouraged among your team or departments inadvertently created a mindset that: As long as I hit my goals, it’s not my problem if others miss theirs. And now, no one is working together cohesively anymore to ensure larger, big-picture goals are successfully met.

In other words, sometimes your style might be the true elephant in the room. So, before you call out your team for their dysfunctional dynamics, first go a layer deeper to see if your leadership is to blame (however inadvertently) for creating that environment.

If it is, acknowledge your own misstep and develop a plan to address the issues — nothing inspires people more than following a leader with enough courage to recognize their own role in the team falling short.

2. Put people out of their “misery”

Part of a great leader’s job is assembling a phenomenal team … and recognizing when someone on that team just isn’t working out. (It does happen, despite best hiring practices.)

Let’s be honest — removing a poor performing slacker with an attitude problem is easy! But what’s not at all easy (and can feel downright cruel) is letting a well-liked member of your team go who has earnestly tried, yet still consistently falls behind and keeps under-performing, even after coaching.

Before dismissing an employee, a compassionate leader first makes certain that team member is given every reasonable opportunity to succeed.

We often assume that others learn the way we do, so create a plan that ensures a struggling employee receives personalty-aligned training and positive support and guidance (and a fair timeline to alter performance) before letting that employee go.

Don’t just give lip service to helping that employee — really take interest in them, their future and finding the best possible fit for them, even if it’s ultimately not with your organization. Often people are fired by “nice bosses” who never gave them honest feedback until the day they’re let go. Not OK! That’s the opposite of strong, compassionate leadership!

That said, if no solution is found and no reassignment is possible, let that employee go in a way that lets them retain their dignity and motivates them to find work that matches their innate skill set. Ultimately you’re not doing them (or your team) any favors by keeping them around to endlessly struggle.

So what’s the difference between a great leader and a complete jerk?

In a word … integrity.

While plenty of people will “make the hard call” or say the difficult thing — before ever doing so, a great leader shows courage by self-reflecting first, to determine how they contributed to the problem and identify ways they need to lead course correction.

As a result, their actions are never truly cruel because they make certain to buffer hard truth with genuine compassion.

Nathalie Salles helps global leaders and diverse teams elevate their innate excellence in order to make dynamic progress toward their specific goals, strategies, or vertical growth vision.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.com

Categories: Leadership, Team Building

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