How To Be a Tough Leader Without Being a Jerk

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You can be a tough leader without being a jerk. In fact, to be authentic, you must.

All too often, being a tough leader is confused with simply being a jerk. But if you want to see your leadership impact grow, you need to know how to be tough without the “jerk factor”.

Somewhere along the line, what it means to truly be a tough, resourceful and resilient leader came to be construed as being merely insensitive, uncaring and boorish.

On the other hand, to be seen as kind, understanding and thoughtful has come to be seen, at least in some circles, as being weak.

Now, to be clear, not every nice person is an effective leader. But the idea that toughness can’t be expressed through kindness is ludicrous.

You can be a tough leader without being a jerk.

It simply takes these prerequisites…

1. Understand what “tough leadership” really is.

A tough leader is simply someone who is committed to achieving results. They possess relentless focus and a strong desire to move people towards a shared vision.

It is not a license for rude behavior.

2. Understand that all leadership requires humility and respect.

Every person you encounter, every day, is worthy of being treated with respect. And when you begin with a respectful attitude, respectful behavior is sure to follow.

3. Understand that a focus on results does not run counter to treating people well.

It’s a fallacy to think that the leadership prize is awarded merely for crossing the finish line. What counts is to bring as many people with you as possible.

And that means treating them well along the journey.

4. Understand that to be kind does not mean to be indecisive.

You can be a clear and decisive and still be kind. It simply means to be considerate; to recognize that even the most difficult of decisions can be communicated in a way that acknowledges that some people may be upset by your call.

Make the call. Explain it with grace.

Keep your eyes fixed on your goals. Remain focused on the outcomes you want to achieve. Do everything you can to keep the team aligned.

And do it all with a sensitivity to the feelings of those you are leading.

When you do, you will be a living example that you really can be a tough leader, without being a jerk.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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