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The most difficult person to lead is... you?

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera

Let me start out with a warning today, my friend. As we go through today’s topic, you may find it easy to become discouraged. That is by no means the intent, so let me encourage you to read through to the end.

Perhaps this sounds familiar to you: there is a list of things that you would like to get done. Some are super easy and serve as low hanging fruit. You can cross several of these things off your list in short order. Others are less easy. Some may be downright intimidating. These things stay on your list for a long time, and can seem to drag you down as you are not making much, if any, progress on these tasks.

While I hope that scenario sounds completely foreign to you, I will suggest that you and I are more alike than not. I spent the first 15 years of my career knowing that I needed to take better care of myself and always finding a way to put it off to tomorrow, next week, next year. 

This brings us to the principle to consider today. As leaders, we must recognize that some people are easier to lead than others. But make no mistake about it. There is someone that you have to lead who is far and away the most difficult to lead – someone you can’t get away from and see every time you look in the mirror. Yourself. You are the most difficult person you will have to lead.

Please stick with me as this may be a discouraging realization for some. This problem is not new; it has been around for thousands of years. Consider this quote from the ancient writer Paul of Tarsus: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  This certainly sounds like someone struggling to lead himself, doesn’t it?

Yes, we all struggle with leading ourselves from time to time. Yet there is reason to be encouraged (if you were discouraged) when you consider all the wonderful things you have done and people you have helped. 

Let me challenge you with a statement that my mentor challenged me with at one time:  “There is a great deal of difference between stopping and quitting.” 

Yes, there are some things I have stopped from time to time and many things I have stopped more than once. Yet, do not miss this critical difference between stopping and quitting. I may have stopped, but I did not quit. You may have stopped, but didn’t quit.  You are still at it today. So, be encouraged. 

Here is something else to encourage you: if you are the most difficult person you have to lead, then, by definition, everyone else is less difficult to lead than you. So, when you consider the wins from leading yourself, recognize that you can also have wins leading others. Even if you have what some may call “difficult” patients or staff members, you can (and will) have success in leading them as well.

As I said in a previous post, this adds importance to the need to learn and develop good leadership skills. Things can certainly be frustrating when you face a difficult situation and lack the tools to do the job well. My grandfather, who was a carpenter, told me once, “Any job is easy when you have the right tool.” 

So, we will continue on our leadership journey when we meet again.

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD





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