Making difficult decisions comes with the territory of leadership—as is doing the hard thing when the need arises.
This morning I heard some bad news about a person I admire. She’s not gone, but she’s not well, and I began imagining what the world would be like without her. This is not someone I know personally—I’ve looked up to her from a distance—and so I’m surprised at how troubled I’ve been by this news.
I’m not one to wax poetic about heroes. The term has been drained of meaning by overuse, but real ones do exist—the kind who risk life and limb and the kind who just do something really hard. I admire both, of course, but I tend to find the second group more challenging, because while I hope never to be called on to rush into a burning building, I am, on occasion, called on to do the hard thing. And, boy, is it easy to cop out.
That’s why I respect the little ways in which people I’ve met in my work life—most of it spent in the association community—have done the hard thing. I had a boss early in my career who constantly ran interference when organizational politics would have scarred the young people who reported to her, me included. I’ve seen colleagues take the full blame for a shared mistake to shield someone else who would have been hit harder by the consequences. I’ve seen members stand up for each other when what began as reasonable disagreement crossed a line. And a decade ago, in tight budget times, I had a coworker who helped me think through a staff downsizing that included his own job in the “cut” column.
At the 2017 ASAE Annual Meeting in Toronto, one of my favorite events was a Game Changer session by activist Luvvie Ajayi, whose talk and whose book, I’m Judging You, challenge us to “do better.” We don’t need to make history or save lives to do that. The people I’ve been thinking about today, those close to me and not so close, have turned that simple phrase into my new year’s resolution.