burden-of-leadership.jpg

The Burden of Leadership

April 19, 2019
Even on bad days, we have a responsibility to our people to be fair and consistent.

Over the past 20 years of leading people and teams, I’ve had the privilege to work with, and for, great leaders.  I have also worked for some not-so-great leaders. Both experiences were extremely valuable to my personal development. The great ones taught me the importance of servant leadership, humility, and the cornerstone of all leadership: dignity and respect for others.  Equally, the not-so-great leaders reinforced that message through their negative actions with people, believing that the human side of leadership was unimportant, and that people were simply another commodity and could be replaced.

My personal leadership development started with my father, who was a leader for most of his career.  At work he was highly respected, a man of integrity and character, and it was obvious. But one of my biggest leadership lessons—what I eventually named the burden of leadership--I learned from interacting with him at home.

Have you ever had a boss in which you would need to assess their mood before approaching them?  Or have you ever commented to a co-worker, “Stay clear of the boss today, he’s in a foul mood.”  My father, who suffered from depression, was like that in his personal life—the weight of his responsibilities affected his mood. At times, I would really need to size up his mood before asking him for something.

Years later, while working for one of the not-so-great leaders, it dawned on me. Why is it my problem that this person is always in a bad mood, never says hello, and yells constantly?  Why do I need to assess his mood before approaching? 

I finally understood, as leaders, we have a responsibility to our people. To be consistent, fair and predictable in terms of our behavior. We are also human, and we have bad days, but we do have a responsibility to be fair and consistent.  In other words, we have the burden of being a leader.

As leaders, we:

Must set the example in everything we do, every day.

Don’t have the luxury of wearing our emotions on our sleeves

Must remember the Golden Rule: Always treat people with dignity and respect.

Lead every minute of every day through words and actions.

I’m certain many professionals and leaders struggle with this at times.  As leaders, you have a responsibility to your people, to the company and to yourself to be the best leader you can be. Leading people is a privilege, and a burden.  Your willingness to accept both is what makes you special. 

Mark Whitten is the U.S. director of operations for Martinrea International, a Tier 1 automotive supplier.

About the Author

Mark Whitten | U.S. Director of Operations

Mark Whitten is the U.S. director of operations for Martinrea International, a Tier 1 automotive supplier. A passionate, results-driven senior business leader, he has 25 years of manufacturing experience, with strong general management qualifications in manufacturing operations, material planning/logistics, stamping, tooling and assembly.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!