Being a Leader Means Being Hated

If you’re going to be a leader, the reality is you’re not going to be liked, you’re going to do things people don’t like, and, quite frankly, you’re may be hated.

Businesses are made up of people. Every decision we make has ramifications for those people.

Over and over, I have been forced to make tough, difficult decisions that people don’t like and that hurt people. I haven’t made these decisions because I don’t like these people or because I don’t respect them or because I don’t do things the right way. The decisions I’ve made hurt because actions have ramifications, and sometimes people simply don’t like the decision I make. Even if they don’t really disagree, they don’t like the ramification that it has on them as a person.

Being a Leader Means Being Hated - David DeWolf

Take, for example, a decision to let somebody go within an organization. This can be for many different reasons, but let’s assume it’s not for performance. Maybe the decision is based on a reorganization or a need to optimize a business. It could be for many different reasons. Without making that decision, the ramification would be underperformance of the organization as well as a lack of stability and lack of opportunity for other employees.

By making that decision, an individual loses a job. For every person that is impacted by a decision in a negative manner, typically there’s at least one or more that are impacted in a positive manner. As a leader, it is your job and responsibility to make those decisions.

If you don’t, you’re failing.

You’re not a leader so that you can be liked. You’re not given leadership in order to be loved. The responsibility of a leader is to lead, and one of the greatest temptations of leadership is to seek out acceptance and love rather than the right decision. (This is outlined by Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Temptations of a CEO.)

As a leader, you must lead. You must make the tough decisions and you must accept the fact that you will not be liked for it. Unfortunately, I’ve lost many friends because of decisions I’ve made. Unfortunately, they blame me for making the decisions I was responsible for making.

Sometimes, those decisions have been wrong, and sometimes they have been right, but regardless, my responsibility remains. I must do to the best of my ability what I’ve been asked to do: make those decisions and use right judgement, prudence, and wisdom to do what I need to do.


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