A little while ago, I interviewed Meetup.com’s CEO David Siegel for our Disrupt Disruption Podcast (here is the episode in case you are curious). In our interview, when talking about the tension which arrises for a leader by making necessary, but unpopular decisions, David admitted that “earlier in my career I needed to be loved by everyone. Even it that meant not making the right decision. […] As a mature leader, you become more comfortable with this. You embrace tension.” David goes on to say that “tension is an inevitable result of working with humans — they are going to have different opinions.”
I experienced this tension (and David’s unease about wanting to be liked) many times in my career. And every time I gave into the need for social acceptance — which by the way is absolutely normal as it is your reptile brain screaming at you “if you are not part of the tribe you will die!” — the end result was bad. Products which weren’t as good as they could have been, people sticking around for too long in jobs they are not good at, deal terms which prove to be costly in the long run…
As uncomfortable as it might be in the moment, lean into the tension. Give people context, explain your rational and the why behind your decisions. Even if only a small minority of people thinks it’s the right thing to do, oftentimes I can (and will) be the right thing to do.
It won’t be easy — but it will get easier. And it is (often) the right thing to do.