Leadership is Hard
ATD Blog

True or False: Leadership Is Hard If You’re Doing It Right?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The responsibility and opportunity we bear as leaders to have an impact on lives in a positive way demands our very best every day. Theodore Roosevelt describes this leader in The Man in the Arena, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Our most joyful moments usually arise from the ashes of expending ourselves toward a worthy cause, daring greatly, striving valiantly—and also marred by stress, heartbreak, and confusion. As a leader, heaven forbid we are one of “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Rather, we play a monumental role in our communities and our organizations when we work on fulfilling our mission. By leading with courage through change and conflict, we, as leaders, create an environment where others can maximize talents and have faith difficult issues will be addressed fairly and confidentially.


Paul says, "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me" (Colossians 1:29). As we wrestle to get the most out of ourselves in order to encourage the best in our employees, we can experience physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual struggle that takes a toll on our well-being. We more commonly experience difficulty as we stumble strongly toward mission accomplishment, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement and experience. When, not if, suffering comes it is helpful to stand on the courage of our convictions, to manage conflict toward a common goal, and facilitate change for a better tomorrow.

In those difficult days, let us remember, recalibrate, and rededicate ourselves to our mission and the purpose in which we are called. We are looking into our future every day as we interact directly or indirectly with our customer, our community, and ourselves. Are we encouraged by this or not? What we do matters. Our actions or inactions, behaviors, and words have an impact, so “strive to do the deeds.”

About the Author

Drexel King is the manager of learning and Development at Baylor University. Years of service as a Naval Academy graduate and infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps provide him with more than 10 years of experience in leadership and performance management. He was a platoon commander in Afghanistan, a leadership consultant for 150 officer candidates, and the training officer for 1,200 incoming freshmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. He has earned several distinct honors and awards for his military service. As a transitioned veteran, Drexel continues to be a student of leadership development with a strong desire to impact lives, learn from others, and make connections.

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