Every leader faces tough times and that’s when leaders distinguish themselves and show who they really are. Leading others can be very difficult and can take great courage. Of course, it’s not that way all of the time. About 95 percent of the decisions a CEO makes could be made by a reasonably intelligent high school graduate. What is often required is common sense. But CEOs don’t get paid for those decisions; they get paid for the other 5 percent! Those are the tough calls. Every change, every challenge, and every crisis requires a tough call, and the way those are handled is what separates good leaders from the rest.
How do you know when you’re facing a tough call and need to be at your best as a leader? You’ll know when the decision is marked by these three things:
The Tough Call Demands Risk
Leaders have to be willing to do things others are unwilling to do. They have to put themselves on the line. Larry Osborne observed, “The most striking thing about highly effective leaders is how little they have in common. What one swears by, another warns against. But one trait stands out: Effective leaders are willing to take a risk.” If you are not willing to take a risk, then you really have no business being a leader. You can’t play everything safe and expect to take people forward at the same time. Progress always requires risk.
A Tough Call Brings with It an Inward Battle
Psychotherapist Sheldon Koop asserts, “All the significant battles are waged within self.” When I think about the difficult times I have faced as a leader, I recognize that every one of them began within me not with others. If the path were clear and smooth, it wouldn’t be a tough call. And anyone could make it! In addition, any tough call you make will be questioned. It will be criticized. It will carry with it certain consequences. That’s why it’s a tough call. Often that internal battle occurs far from the spotlight of leadership, and casual observers aren’t even aware that it’s happening. Pastor, author, and academician Chuck Swindoll writes, “Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner test, like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you’re misunderstood.” Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it is always necessary if a leader wants to have integrity and be effective.
Because most tough calls also result in an outward battle, a leader must win the first victory on the inside. If you are unsettled internally on an issue, you will not have the security you need for the external battle.
A Tough Call Will Distinguish You as a Leader
They are the reason you are there to be the leader. If everything was going well, the people wouldn’t need you! Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani says, “When the right person is the leader, he does even better during tough times.” I think that’s true. When an organization has momentum, nearly anyone can lead. All the person has to do is find out the direction the people are going and get in front of them! When there is no momentum, a good leader will give direction and encourage forward progress. But when an organization has not only lost momentum but is moving in the wrong direction, that’s when leaders really earn their pay! Only the very best leaders can lead effectively in such situations. It is during those tough times that they make the toughest decisions and really distinguish themselves as leaders.