Let’s have a difficult conversation

Posted on February 24, 2009



I have heard leadership described in many ways. A leader is a: visionary, role model, problem solver, teacher, strategist, chearleader, shepherding, and the list goes on and on.

These are all great leadership qualities. However, what does leadership ultimately boil down to? What is the stuff that really separates a ‘good’ from a ‘great’ leader? A competent leader can supply vision, solve problems, think creatively, and shepherd others, but there is one act that many creative leaders fail in or try to avoid; having the difficult conversation. Nancy Beach once said:

“At the end of the day, leadership is just a series of difficult conversations…”

A bell went off in my head when I heard that. It’s true. Through all the creativity, glamour, stress, high points, and hard times, great creative leadership is the willingness to have a hard conversation. It’s asking yourself:

  • Do I care enough about this person’s character to address this issue?
  • Do I believe that this conversation can have life changing results (for both of us)?
  • Am I willing to invest in this relationship by having this hard conversation?
  • Am I willing to be wrong and humbly ask for forgiveness?
  • Am I willing to go through pain and discomfort for the sake of this relationship?
  • Am I willing to consider this person’s needs greater than my own?

There is a lot more attention and credit given to ‘public’ skills like speaking, artistic talent, and charisma. As a leader you need to do those well. But are you willing to have the difficult conversation with one another- even if you might be in the wrong?

A leadership style that embraces the difficult conversation is what seperates great leaders from the rest of the organization.

Who is the co-worker you need to talk to today? Who is the artist that you keep making excuses to talk to? Who is the friend your conscience is poking you to talk to? Be a leader today and have that difficult conversation, not only for the sake of your relationships but for the sake of your leadership.