Disappointments in Leadership

People disappoint.  Fact.   People can redeem themselves from disappointment.  Greater fact.  And you can forgive them when they do.  And If you choose to.  Hands down leadership fact. 

The company i work for has its own laundry list of disappointments.  My team has a ton of it.  Ours come in chains of laundromats.  We’d be like McDonald’s right now if disappointment were a reliable currency in business.  And when you come to think of it, folks in my team are franchise holders of disappointments.  Me included.   

I often ask myself where my virtue went.  Maybe I started asking when people kept chiding me for not having enough EQ.  After a while, being angry becomes second nature.  Anger, some say, is good fuel to enforce change, when everything else is failing.  Like necessity being the mother of innovation, anger is the cousin of revolutions.  Even emotions enjoy a bit of nepotism, sometimes. 

The other day, in the midst of plans, explanations, initiatives, and the pressure to HIT GREEN or MORE…(the slogan resembles an NBA Finals Game where people chant:  “WIN or GO HOME“.  Well, I feel like the Cavs these days. And there is Lebron and damn you, JR Smith! I digress…let me go on.)    

So, the other day, in the midst of all these initiatives, I stood again in disappointment.  And while I would usually be about my angry self, I stepped away and told myself: go home.   

And simmer in silence. 

I don’t know why I don’t simmer in silence often enough.  It’s not that I suffer for it.  I saw a gold bracelet once that had this inscription:  Pain happens.  Suffering is optional. Like who chooses suffering?  Even disappointments?  Being disappointed is even such a waste of emotion, isn’t it?  Unless, one uses it as a fuel to act, to solve?  But it is wasteful.  In so doing, disappointments draw you to do your best and for you to charge your inner reserves.  It’s like running on your second wind.  You function like water in a dam, rushing to be outpoured.  And then when you’re all poured out,  you feel the drain.  And then you have nothing.  There is nothing left but to step away.  And simmer in silence.  Go home, Teki.  Try again tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the day after.  The constant running on empty becomes you after a few months.  Disappointment crystallized.  It’s like that last line in a Rupert Holmes song, Terminal.    

I myself can only say it's livin' dead
Riding to the office with a song in my head that goes...
And you know it grows...

Maybe this is the secret lesson in leadership.  That our ability to simmer in silence and to suffer the occasional disappointments become hallmarks of true personal achievement.  Forget about our standard barometers for success.  Success isn’t in OKRs.  Nor hitting green.  Nor is it found in promotions, money and so-called people friendly skills.  It’s not all those happy stuff.  I think it comes from showing up against the odds, to navigate the process even if it’s painful. And to suffer alone as a leader.  Lastly, to always be grounded in these facts: that the things you do are never going to be honored, nor remembered, nor celebrated, nor missed.    

And that when all is said and done, it’s time to finally go home.   

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