Leadership Should Be Difficult

ThinkstockPhotos-87453587Leadership isn’t easy. People and employees who think being a leader means sitting in the corner office, taking three-hour lunches and spending afternoons on the golf course are sadly mistaken.

Leadership is difficult—and leadership should be difficult. Why? Because at its heart, being a leader is about bringing people together with a shared vision in order to achieve a goal or solve a problem. It’s about how leaders influence the daily lives of the people who work for them and how their decisions affect careers and outcomes.

A leader not only brings different personalities and employees together but also instills confidence in those differing personalities in order to bring about success. This is not an easy task. The most difficult part of commanding is knowing what is really going on with the company, with individual employees and what the best solution is. That’s a daunting task for anyone.

The Difficult Truth

Human nature dictates that employees and workers look up to leaders because they believe these leaders know the truth and have solutions. On the flip side, human nature also dictates that even leaders are sometimes clueless as to what is actual truth and what is a personal interpretation.

Humans often draw conclusions quickly and without awareness, which results in a skewed view of what is really going on.

What leaders think and say is usually perceived as truth, when it may not actually be. Managers have the difficult task of putting their personal interpretations aside, researching all options and deciding—even against their personal preferences—what the best course of action is.

The Mediator

Handling conflicts in a workplace is also a difficult, but necessary, task for leaders. Ideally, employees can work out problems between each other, but if they cannot, leaders must step in to resolve the conflict. Conflicts in the office can easily spiral out of control, leading to a toxic and unproductive work environment.

Handling conflicts or disciplining employees is not an easy task, nor should it be. Leaders are expected to use a firm, yet gentle, hand to help resolve problems and ease fears.

The Professional Student

In addition to managing expectations, results and people, leaders are expected to be on top of the latest training and information. Professionals in an authoritative role can’t wait for the next training session, but instead, must constantly learn, research and grow in order to effectively lead a team.

While others go home at the end of the day and relax or watch their favorite show, leaders should invest in their development by reading, watching and studying as often as possible.

Putting Others First

Today’s leadership model has shifted toward servant leadership where leaders are expected to focus on the development of their employees. True leaders create more leaders.

This role is a tough one to balance. On one hand, a leader must deliver results and make an impact on the success of the company; on the other hand, managers are expected to cater to different personality types and generations in the workforce in order to boost employee development. The overall result should benefit the company’s bottom line.

Modern leadership is more difficult now than in the past. Being a leader isn’t a simple task, but instead is a journey of work, self-discipline, and continuing education. If done right, however, the results can be rewarding, for you, your employees, and your company.

How to Recognize Your Champion Mentors

Young architect taking direction from senior colleagueDid you know that January was National Mentoring Month? If you missed the celebration, it’s not too late to thank the mentors in your life who’ve helped you achieve personal or professional success.

Return the favor

Mentors usually take time out of their own schedules to help you accomplish a task or learn a new skill. To recognize and appreciate their sacrifice, find ways you can return the favor. If you don’t think you have anything to offer your mentor, think again. While it’s true you may not possess the same depth of knowledge or experience, your time can be just as valuable. Many mentors offer their help and guidance without expecting anything in return, but even little examples of appreciation can go a long way.

Make a list of things you can do to help your mentor in his or her everyday life. For example, if you’re really good at planning, offer to help plan their upcoming vacation. Or if you’re great with animals, offer to watch their dogs while they’re away. Think about the industry your mentor is in, and where he or she is in their career. If your mentor is in a leadership role, consider sending them relevant, insightful articles about leadership. Or, forward articles about the trends in their particular industry, so they don’t have to spend time searching on their own.

Pass it on

Do you have skills, experience, or knowledge in a particular industry or craft? Perhaps you’re a really great writer, you excel in math, or you know the ins and outs of a popular computer program. If so, have you considered becoming a mentor?

As a thank you to those who have helped you along your path, you may be able to pass the favor on to someone else. If you’ve never considered becoming a mentor, take a few minutes to list all of the things you excel in or the skills that help you stand out. Can you teach those skills to others? Do you have a hobby people want to learn? Did your mentor do such a great job guiding you that you now feel capable of doing the same for someone else? Whatever your unique skills are, explore how you may be able to pass them on to others.

Endorse your mentor

If you’re on LinkedIn, you’ve probably noticed the endorsement capabilities of the social network. Endorsing allows you to publicly praise someone you’ve worked with so others know they excel in those areas. For example, you might endorse a co-worker with a knack for creating spreadsheets. Or, your boss may endorse you for your organizational skills. To thank your mentors, consider finding them on LinkedIn, connecting, and endorsing their skill sets.

You can provide endorsements in various areas, but ensure that you’re being honest about the ones you choose. While providing endorsements is a wonderful gesture, it’s important to make sure your mentor promotes the skills you select. You can also write your mentor a reference for others to view on LinkedIn. Remember to keep it positive, specific, and encouraging.

Thank your mentor

It goes without saying that you should be thankful for your mentor. It’s an essential part of maintaining a great relationship and showing appreciation. Even if you don’t have the ability to mentor someone else, return the favor, or provide LinkedIn endorsements, and you can always send a thank-you note.

Take a moment to write a nice letter, send a simple handwritten card, or draft an email. Your words of appreciation will go a long way with your mentor, and may even encourage them to mentor someone else. Let your mentor know how they’ve changed you for the better, inspired you, or helped you succeed. Share your wins and accomplishments, and explain how they’ve helped you get there. Your success is just as important to your mentor, and chances are, they want to celebrate with you.

Find a mentor today
If you don’t have a mentor, it’s not too late to find one. No matter what stage of life you’re in, or where you are at on your career path, you can always benefit from the knowledge and experience of others. You may find a mentor in a local industry organization, through networking events, or at your school. There are plenty of opportunities, so remember to keep your eyes open for those who can guide you and help you succeed.

Do you have a mentor? How do you recognize and appreciate their support? Share your tips in the comments section below!

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

Super Bowl Leadership Lessons

footballWith the biggest game of the year upon us, many this weekend with focus on the matchup between the two teams, the legacy of the players who end up on the winning side, the commercials that will win the day, or the number of Buffalo wings they’ll consume.

But the Super Bowl also offers many lessons for people pursuing success in their professional lives. Throughout the years, many players who have shined on the biggest stage of professional football have gone on to lengthy and successful careers.

Troy Aikman

In 1990, if you asked any football fan or expert about the prospect of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman becoming a Hall of Fame player and Super Bowl champion, it’s unlikely you’d find any who would think there was a chance of that happening. The Cowboys didn’t win a game with Aikman as the starting quarterback, and he threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.

So what happened over the next two years that would lead to the Cowboys winning Super Bowl XXVII and Aikman being named the MVP?

Over those two years, Aikman grew and matured while the Cowboys organization surrounded him with a talented offensive line and future hall of famers in Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith.

If you’re just starting your career and gaining experience in your work, don’t give up. Understand that success takes time and that as you learn more about your career field, you will experience more wins.

The other lesson to remember is that nothing is accomplished on your own. A successful career is often the result of teamwork, so make sure to learn from those around you and thank them along the way.

Hines Ward

Known for his toughness, resiliency, and big smile, Hines Ward’s story is one of perseverance through tough circumstances.

Ward was a highly regarded wide receiver coming out of college in 1998, with many expecting him to be one of the top five receivers selected in the pro draft. But before the draft, it was discovered that Ward was missing an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee from a bicycle accident during his childhood.

This news made many teams wary of his health, and Ward fell from being one of the top receivers in the draft to being the 12th receiver taken when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the third round.

Over the next seven seasons, Ward and the Steelers found success but came up short of their ultimate goal, a Super Bowl trophy. Then, in 2005, the Steelers won Super Bowl XL and Ward was named the MVP.

Throughout his career, Ward was known for his willingness to block for teammates and make the catches that would leave him vulnerable to big hits. This sacrifice for the good of the team towards a common goal is a lesson we can all take to heart in our professional lives.

Von Miller

The most recent Super Bowl MVP, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller has played the majority of his young career with a spotlight on his efforts and an expectation of success.

Drafted second overall in 2011 by the Broncos, Miller was anticipated to be a highly successful player who could lead the rebuilding of the team’s defense. While he saw success early on and the Broncos became a contender, toward the end of the 2013 season, Miller tore his ACL and watched as his team made it to Super Bowl XLVIII. From the sidelines, he watched the Broncos suffer one of the worst losses in Super Bowl history, falling to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8.

Two years later, Miller helped lead his team to another chance for a championship as the Broncos made another appearance in the Super Bowl. Instead of standing on the sidelines, Miller was instrumental in the Broncos victory, forcing two fumbles and winning Super Bowl MVP.

Just like Von Miller, many of us have expectations set on us for success, whether from leaders at work or friends and family members at home. Those expectations may put a heavy weight on our shoulders, but they can also move us to work harder knowing that others have confidence in our abilities.

And when setbacks happen, we know from the stories of each of these Super Bowl MVPs, they don’t have to define us. We can grow, learn, and reach new heights if we’re willing to put in the effort and fight to see success.

What other prime-time performers from past Super Bowls can teach us career lessons? Let us know in the comments section.

3 Top Traits of High Achievers

Have you ever looked at the successful people in your life and wondered how they got where they are? What characteristics or advantages do they have that you don’t? Thankfully, most successful people don’t have some secret formula for success that we don’t all have access to.

Ultimately, high achievers have three traits in common that allow them to be successful.


When looking at the most successful people in your life, you’ll likely notice their hard work and determination to do well, no matter what their career or the task they’re facing. This attitude of perseverance helps them overcome difficult odds so that they can achieve what others can’t.

But where does this perseverance come from? A passion and focus to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves.

They set their eyes on achieving something and don’t let distractions hold them back. Whether it’s their personal wellness, work/life balance, or completing a big project at work, high achievers have a single-minded focus on accomplishing their goals.

This focus also means they are willing and able to fail during the process, knowing that they won’t be stopped by a momentary setback. Often, the high achievers among us are those willing to try something new in the hopes that it will bring great results. New ideas, though, don’t always lead to success. Persevering through these tough times is what will set you apart on your way to success.


For many, the fear of asking questions is holding them back. For high achievers, however, questions are the key to their success, because they lead to learning.

Being willing and excited to learn new information helps the most successful people stay successful and reach new heights in their careers. They aren’t going to settle or stay stagnant with the knowledge they have. Learning leads to new ideas being brought to the table, so to become one of the high achievers, commit to being a life-long learner.

The drive to continually improve is one of the top traits of people who achieve greatness in their lives, including the desire to keep learning and growing in their profession.


This trait may surprise you, considering we most often associate high achievement with a singular focus that can be seen as steamrolling anyone who gets in the way, but the most successful people are often the most thankful.

They understand that nothing can be accomplished alone—that a group of individuals, supporting, challenging, and pushing them to be their best, is the best asset. Showing them their gratitude and being compassionate is common among the highest achievers in the world.

Whether it’s in their professional or personal life, successful people know that when they succeed, they provide value to others that will ultimately help them reach their goals, and they don’t take that for granted.

Take a moment and think about the high achievers in your life, the leaders, co-workers, family, and friends that you consider successful. These three traits of perseverance, learning, and thankfulness are very likely found in each of them.

What other traits do you think make someone a high achiever? Let us know in the comments section.

Leadership Lessons from North American Leaders


ThinkstockPhotos-636064846In the spirit of the upcoming U.S. presidential inauguration and the 150th anniversary of Canada, Movin’ On Up takes a look at admirable leadership qualities from iconic North American leaders. From making work/life balance a priority to accepting blame to herding cats, these trailblazers exemplify leadership traits we can all adapt to our career.

Make work/life balance a priority.
Theodore Roosevelt was not only the 26th President of the United States, he was also a father of six children. He was regarded as a powerful, playful father who told ghost stories and had pillow fights with his kids. Even when his schedule was busy, Roosevelt still found time for his family. In fact, in the summer of 1905, Roosevelt took his family on their annual camping trip, even though he was busy preparing for peace talks and consulting about the building of the Panama Canal.

So, what can we learn from the leadership style of Theodore Roosevelt? Simply put, it’s all about the importance of work/life balance. A great leader must be dedicated to his or her work, but finding a balance between career and personal obligations is essential. If you’re determined to make a name for yourself, build your career, or earn a promotion, it’s important to invest a lot of effort into those goals. But, remember to take time for yourself, and your family, to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Accept blame as quickly as you accept praise.
The 33rd President, Harry Truman, had a famous sign on his desk in the Oval Office. It read: “The buck stops here.” This well-known statement, believed to have originated from a game of poker, means that blame cannot be passed from one person to another. In his farewell address in 1953, Truman referred to this famous saying. “The President—whoever he is—has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job,” Truman said.

How does “The buck stops here.” apply to leadership? It means that great leaders must not only make decisions, but also accept responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions. Whether it’s good or bad, leaders must own those outcomes. If you’re in a position of leadership—or you aim to be someday—remember to take responsibility when things don’t go according to plan.

You can’t do everything on your own.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, and remains one of the most highly regarded leaders due to his devotion to those he led. It’s believed that Lincoln met every Union soldier who enlisted in the early days of the Civil War, and spent more time outside of the White House than he did in it. According to Time, Lincoln spent 75% of his day meeting with people. And, despite being the leader of America, he maintained an open-door policy.

What made Lincoln’s accessibility such a great leadership trait? He was always trying to obtain the best information in order to make good decisions. He wasn’t resolved to making decisions on his own, and valued the opinions of those around him. If you’re trying to implement a new workplace strategy or starting a new project, consider asking your co-workers for their input. Don’t shy away from the advice of others, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Know how to herd cats.

In 2017, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. In honour of our Canadian colleagues, our final leadership trait comes from the Great White North.

Canadian biographer Richard Gwyn argues that without Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, there would be no Canada. Sir John A., as he is known, embodied a key leadership trait that still holds true for prime ministers and leaders today—the ability to herd cats. If you’re going to run Canada, which is a much decentralized, diversified country with immense distances and hard weather, huge communication barriers, and an enormity of different interest groups and ethnicities, you have to know how to herd cats. You’ve got to be able to convince people to go along with your vision, to make them believe in what you know is right, and that requires inspiration, skill, art, and determination.

What other leadership lessons can we learn from our North American leaders? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Great Leaders Who Overcame Huge Obstacles

overcomingYou may have heard the saying, “If you get knocked down; get back up and try again.” Not everyone on top today got there by having success after success. Many people face obstacles that forced them to work harder and show more determination than others. In fact, the greatest triumphs often come from situations that seem overwhelmingly awful. The way in which you respond to those adversities can be seen as victories themselves. People who have encountered challenges may agree that the factors in overcoming obstacles are determination, focus, and self-discipline.


The Results Are In: How Do You Prepare for a Future Leadership Role?

Leadership MsgA company is ultimately shaped by those in leadership positions, for better or worse. Because of this—and because having the right leadership is vital to company success—we wanted to know how Movin’ On Up readers might prepare for future leadership roles.

The Results
According to our poll, the majority of respondents (49%) said they prepare for a future leadership role using a combination of the following: pursuing higher education, finding a mentor, and learning new skills, among others.

Approximately 15% of respondents selected “learn new skills through work or volunteering” as the sole way they prepare for a leadership role, while “study leadership” and “pursue higher education” tied with 10% of the votes.

In addition, each of the following choices received less than 10% of the votes:

  • Find a mentor
  • Become involved with networking or industry organizations
  • Change careers

Readers were also able to select the “Other” option and provide their own answers. Of the 3% who chose this option, responses included utilizing personal connections, going beyond the average duty of their jobs, and taking responsibility for special initiatives—just to name a few.

To learn more about how you can prepare for a future leadership role with every day habits, check out this article.

Do you aspire to be in a leadership position someday? Are there other ways you’re preparing for a future leadership role? Let us know in the comments section below!

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.