“I’d rather be hated for what I am than loved for what I am not.” – Kurt Cobain
We spend a lot of time as leaders trying to make other people happy. Our customers want something, so we try and give it to them. Our employees want something, so we try and give it to them. We think leaders are supposed to do certain things, so we try and do them.
And of course, none of this is necessarily bad. We do have to provide value to our customers. We do need to attract and retain great people. There are certain things leaders need to do regardless of your business or industry specifics.
Unfortunately, too often we take it too far. We attempt to do anything and everything that every single customer asks of us. We bend over backwards to accommodate every staff request. We attempt to make ourselves an exact replica of some other leader that people view as “successful”.
The problem is that we end up losing track of who we are. Leaders of businesses like the ones I just described are almost always miserable. They’re leading businesses they no longer recognize, and no longer feel any ownership of. So try this instead:
You don’t have to be everything to every customer. You do have to provide value to your customers. So what value is it you’re passionate about providing? And who exactly wants to buy that? Figure out how you can connect with those people and forget the rest. Not every customer is a great fit for you. Accept that and go after the ones who are.
You don’t have to acquiesce to every employee demand. You do need great people to succeed. But not every person on earth is a fit for your business – including, probably, some of the people you have now. They have to buy into what you’re doing and why. They have to fit the culture you’re trying to create. Think about what kind of people your business needs to have, and what those people value in an employer. Then see how you might provide that, and how you might connect with those people.
You don’t have to lead like somebody else. You do need to create & communicate a vision, and a bunch of other things. But you can do it in a way that’s authentic to you. You don’t have to sound like Steve Jobs. You don’t have to memorize lines from a management book. Be who you are. Think about what you want your business to be and then honestly communicate that picture to others inside and outside of your organization.
The point of all this is simple: You have to feel good about your business. You won’t feel good if 10 years from now you stop and realize that your business makes everybody happy but you. How much money you may have made won’t make a bit of difference. What you’re doing with your life will. Make it yours.