Don’t Be Just a “Good News” Leader

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I never liked firing people.

That may sound like a normal, human response to an unpleasant task, but I’ve known people who actually enjoy it. (One particular TV news director comes to mind.) Ogres like that aside, though, most of us don’t like this uncomfortable, but necessary, part of leadership.

The fact is that leadership is, to a large degree, about doing the uncomfortable things. In fact, if you’re comfortable in your leadership, you’re probably not leading.

If you’re comfortable in your #leadership, you’re probably not leading. Share on X

Many times, though, leaders try to delegate the negative, unpleasant tasks. Perhaps they’re following Machiavelli’s advice from The Prince:

Princes [read: leaders] should delegate to others the enactment of unpopular measures and keep in their own hands the means of winning favors.”

This might make for a popular leader, but not an effective one. And besides, delegation does not absolve you of responsibility. As a leader, the buck still stops with you.

When I had to fire someone, I took it very seriously. I knew that what was, to me, an unpleasant conversation was, to them, a life-changing moment. My hope was that they would find a better match for themselves somewhere else, and go on to become greatly successful. Sometimes this happened; sometimes it didn’t. Either way, the moment itself was never fun.

When it became clear that a team member wasn’t working out and needed to be let go, I, as the leader, had three choices: I could do it myself, I could delegate it to someone else, or I could evade the problem and do nothing.

You, as a leader, have those same three options when you face an uncomfortable situation. Of those three, the third is unacceptable. The second is a cop-out. The first is leadership.

Look, if you’re not willing to do your hard, uncomfortable things, you can’t ask your team to do their hard, uncomfortable things (at least, not with any credibility). Whether you’re aware of it or not, your team members are always looking to you for clues about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

When you’re a leader, your team members look to you for clues about what’s acceptable. #leadership Share on X

Firing people is uncomfortable. Giving any kind of bad news is uncomfortable. But so is growth itself, and all good businesses are in the growth business.

All good businesses are in the growth business. Share on X

It’s easy to be a “good news” leader. But a real leader leads through the bad news as well.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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