The 4 Temptations of “Nice-People Leadership”

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Updated from November 9, 2009 post

Today was an interesting day at the Willow Creek Association.

A group of leaders met to discuss future speaker possibilities for the Global Leadership Summit. Potential names were suggested, and then debate ensued.

Some members of our team loved certain speaker suggestions, others hotly disagreed. The debate was always passionate, but never personal. It was always heated, but never crossed the line of disrespect.

It was fascinating to watch the debate unfold, and in particular to observe how those who would normally be labeled as “nice” entered the fray.

Seeing these nice leaders engage with full vigor reminded me again that nice people really can be effective as leaders. As long as they remain on guard against these four temptations…

1. The temptation to avoid hard conversations.

Every leader needs to be able to tackle tough issues with those whom they are leading. As nice leaders we need to recognize our aversion to these conversations and compensate by being disciplined and focused.

2. The temptation to avoid clarity.

Nice leaders can be so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings that we’ll shroud our comments in vague euphemisms. Every time you walk away from a conversation ask yourself, “Did I get my message across with crystal clarity?”

3. The temptation to seek approval over respect.

Nice people can sometimes walk a path that’s dangerously close to “people pleasing”. In order for nice people to be as effective as possible in their leadership they must resist the temptation to attempt to please everybody.

Effective leaders earn respect. And out of that respect will flow approval.

4. The temptation to expect too little from people.

Nice leaders will sometimes lower the bar so low for their people that the organization flounders in a sea of mediocrity. Our people will accomplish more if we set the bar high and show them how to get there.

Avoiding these temptations doesn’t mean becoming someone you’re not. Don’t fake tough.

Instead, if you’re a fellow nice person trying to make it as a leader, start by being aware of these temptations.

You may well find that being nice doesn’t disqualify you from effective leadership.

What have you learned about being “nice” in your leadership?


the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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