Browse any library (those still exist), and you’ll find dozens of books written about leadership. You’d think by now, with all this advice, we’d have figured out a foolproof formula for becoming a good leader. That’s not the case, and one reason why is that we all get caught up in wishful thinking and romantic notions of what defines good leadership and which qualities we need to master to meet these expectations.
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In reality, a “nice” person will not always make a good leader. Just as a “good pianist” is judged by his/her piano playing skills and not how good a person he/she is, a good leader should be judged by their ability to move people in a new direction. Many times, that requires making some difficult, unpopular, and unpleasant decisions.
We’ve all seen the movie in which the villain places the hero in an impossible predicament – choose between saving the one you love or saving the innocent bystanders! Predictably, the hero never makes a choice, and instead finds a way to save everyone. In these scenarios, the hero is spared the burden of having to accept responsibility for making a difficult moral choice. In real life, leaders don’t have that option. They sometimes have to lay off a good friend, or disappoint a family member, or take some other painful action – and accept responsibility – to reach a larger goal.
Good leadership isn’t about being nice. It’s about possessing the ability to make compromises and sacrifices for the greater good. Rest assured, there is a way to become this kind of leader without selling your soul for eternity. But it requires a very different way of defining the term, and your role, as a leader.
Rob Asghar is a Los Angeles-based writer, management consultant, and Forbes contributor.