Leadership is painful.

If you’ve been around leadership long enough I don’t need to remind you of that (spoiler if you’re just starting out).

It’s painful for all kinds of reasons.

People let you down. You let people down. You have to let things go and you have to let people go. There’s often big expectations and little resources to meet them. It can be overwhelming and lonely at the same time. Just to name a few.

Personally, I’m prone to making decisions that seek to avoid pain. Even the thought of getting a COVID test gave me anxiety (I’ve had one it was fine).

A few years ago I read a book from Dr Sam Chand that helped me reframe it. I’ll save you the time, the big idea was this:

“You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.”

If you look at people with expansive influence they are people with a high pain tolerance. If you don’t believe it, look at the journey that got them there or look at what they have to endure being there.

As challenging as it might be, leading better is not about removing pain but preventing injury.

Pain is something you experience, injury is something you carry.

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It’s necessary to distinguish between the pain of discomfort and growth and the pain of harm and injury, both require our care and attention.

To be clear, if leadership is doing you harm then it’s both appropriate and imperative to seek help and intervention to prevent injury to you or others.

Leadership pain may be difficult to embrace, but it is certainly not something we need to fear or avoid. The momentary discomfort can serve as a helpful reminder of progress.

This can help us reframe ‘why am I experiencing this pain?‘ to a more helpful question of ‘what is this pain preparing me for?

My best guess…growth.

A question to reflect on:
“How do I distinguish between the pain of growth and the pain of injury?”