The Hard Side of Leadership // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

There are two important sides to effective leadership in any organization: the hard side and the soft side.

I would like to devote the next two columns to these aspects. If you hope to be a successful leader, you must master both sides!

Today, we’ll look at the hard side of leadership.

Being a “softie” by nature, this part of effective leadership is most challenging for me. Sometimes, I wish I could just ignore the hard side — but I know I can’t if we’re going to move forward.

The hard side of leadership includes the structure, the strategy and the vision. It requires courage and faith. It is the force that moves us beyond the barriers and problems that get in the way.

If you understand the hard side of leadership, you realize that the right path is often the most difficult. You have to be tough enough to keep plugging away.

My good friend, Bill Wilcox, recently said, “The difference between a good leader and a great leader is the ability to make the hard decisions.”

He is absolutely right. Most leaders are unwilling to pay the price for excellence — and, instead, they pay the price of mediocrity.

Great leaders don’t enjoy making the tough decisions any more than anybody else. Nobody likes to be criticized, hammered and harpooned.

Yet, the tough minded leaders who rise above the ordinary understand the duty of following the “higher road”, regardless of the risk.

Mastering the hard side of leadership brings stability, strength and success. Looking back, I can see that my own leadership ability has increased as I have grown in this area.

Perhaps that’s the difference between coaches Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy. Dungy was an outstanding coach for the Bucaneers. I liked him a lot. He is a good Christian man with high moral values. My son, Ryan, has his autographed picture and it’s a treasure.

Yet, it took a different coach, Jon Gruden, to make the Bucs Super Bowl Champions. Why? Although there are many factors involved, one major difference between the two coaches was Gruden’s ability to make the hard decision.

Looking back at the Civil War, we discover that this is also the difference between Ulysses S. Grant and George McClellen. Grant took the risk and pounded it out — while “little Mac” tended to play it safe.

When we are willing to embrace the hard side of leadership, we will discover
* courage instead of fear
* determination instead of hesitancy
* vision instead of safety
* progress instead of status quo.

Of course, the hard side of leadership has it’s drawbacks and must be tempered with the soft side, which we will explore next week.

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