A Letter To The Discouraged Leader

Dear Discouraged Leader,

I know you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Like you don’t have a clue where to start, and you’re not sure if you’re doing it right.

You saw how your predecessor did it and you feel like you could never reach that level. You keep trying to keep your head above water, but every time you do someone hands you another 5 pound weight.

Image by Kevin Walsh

Image by Kevin Walsh

Despite all of that, I have something to tell you: you’re doing better than you think.

I talk to leaders of all ages, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that the ones who feel most discouraged have 2 things in common:

1. They’re new to their leadership role.

2. They’re comparing themselves to another leader.

New to leadership

Being new to leadership is always daunting. But just because you’re new to it doesn’t mean you’re bad at everything to do with leading. Sure, you’ll make mistakes and you’re probably making some right now, but it’s not all negative. Most people have more capacity to lead than they think. Of course there are leadership gifts that give some the edge, but a lot of leadership is in the head and heart.

Being new to leadership makes you doubt all your good qualities. All I’m saying is don’t. Live into your own skin. Find out what makes you a good leader.

Are you empathetic? Leverage the mentoring leadership style of Tony Dungy. Are you a visionary? Surround yourself with people who focus on the details.

And one more thing. Stop leaning on being new as an excuse. I don’t say that to be mean. I say it because it’s holding you back. It’s stopping you from doing the hard work of starting.

The biggest thing that keeps many leaders, especially new ones, from starting that hard work is comparing themselves to another leader.

Pale in comparison

When you got into the leadership role you’re in now, you didn’t envision most leaders as being your peers, did you? No, you matched yourself up against the Jack Welch-types of the world. I don’t mean that literally, I mean you compared yourself to your mentally constructed version of a prototypical leader.

And you pale in comparison.

Of course you do! No one meets the ridiculous standards you came up with. No one. Even those people you think have it all. Inside, many of them are as doubtful as you.

You’re not that other leader, so stop trying to be. Being yourself actually plays to your strengths because people crave authenticity in a leader. They don’t want someone else channeled through you. They want you.

And chances are you’re doing way better than you feel like you are. Look, you just have a different leadership style than whoever you’re comparing yourself to. If I compared myself to someone like Michael Hyatt, I would come up woefully short.

But guess what? That’s not me. That’s not the kind of leader I am. And that’s OK.

Here’s the thing: you only pale in comparison to the impossible standard you’re setting. You can lead in a million different ways. You just need to find what works for you.

Some final encouragement

Look, I know it’s not easy. I’ve been in these same situations before. I’ve found myself in scenario after scenario where I felt out of my league and beyond my capacity. And many times I was.

But I grew into it. And so will you.

If you’re hanging in there and making it work, odds are you’re doing a much better job than it seems like in your head. I was talking to someone in this situation just the other day. She was in a position where she felt she wasn’t doing what she needed to be because she didn’t even know what those things were.

When she talked me through it though, she sounded like she was doing just fine. It was a perspective thing.

So let me encourage you just like I tried to do with her. You’re doing just fine. You’re better than you think. You’re more of a leader than you think. And the world needs you to be.

Question: What advice would you add to this list? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Grayson Pope is the Director of Community at Mecklenburg Community Church. He’s also a husband, father and blogger. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter. You can also pick up a FREE copy his latest eBook here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.