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  • Bridget Robinson, JD

#PRYMETYME Spotlight: Leadership Takes Sacrifice


My work as a human resource professional often positions me to work on the development of leaders who shape the organization. The responsibility of helping to mature “great employee” to “amazing boss” always seems to be force me to define the essence of leadership.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines leadership as the ability to lead other people. Based on this premise, one can say that with leadership comes power.

The historian and moralist, Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 wrote; “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men”. But I beg to differ from his opinion because power does not corrupt people, people corrupt power. And this can only happen when people with weak characters are in power and in leadership positions.

Character matters; it has everything to do with leadership because good character is the most important balance for leadership. Character matters because leadership descends from true character.

Sacrifice in leadership comes with the territory. It’s one of the main reasons that not everyone should lead others: sacrifice is a concept and action that requires great maturity and self-awareness. Not all are ready for this kind of surrender.

What should we sacrifice as leaders?

Selfishness. One cannot be a leader if one is driven by selfishness. To be a leader, our thoughts are on those who would follow us and support the cause we all rally behind. Selfishness has no part to play here. Self-first as a concept is where we tend to our own needs (like sleep, rest, exercise, health, well-being) so there is more of us to give. We need to look after ourselves if we are to live to serve another day.

Invisibility. To lead is to make a stand, to be seen and heard for the sake of what we believe and who we serve. Invisibility keeps us hidden, inspiring no one and encouraging nothing. We do not need to lead from the front as a hero; what we do need is to be a visible and vocal presence of encouragement. Integrity is when action reflects thought and words.

Fear of criticism. Actually, many fears need to be sacrificed: fear of making a mistake, of letting others down, of not living up to expectations, of being found wanting. As leaders, we will make mistakes, we will disappoint others, and we may find ourselves short of skill or capacity to do the job. Leadership is knowing all this, and doing our best anyway, because we believe that our petty fears are not enough to stand by and let what matters go unsupported.

Hope. Hope is an emotion for those who feel powerless and victims in life’s wake. It is for those who wait to be rescued. As leaders, we do not waste energy in a lament of hope; we forge our own path, seeking a way through turmoil with effort and focus. We can replace hope with determination, conviction, and grit.

What do you sacrifice as a leader? What is the cause that you dedicate your life to?

How you work through your character and sacrifices can either make things more difficult or more tolerable for you and the people you lead.

It’s time to pull closer to people.

There is no better time than now to pay more attention to the people around you. Start with your loved ones, including the ones you may have distanced yourself from. Move outward to friends and neighbors. And of course, be present to those who rely on you at work to lead them through their fears, anger, and disappointment.

Begin here:

Care for yourself first.

Be present and vigilant.

Listen to understand.

Have compassion.

Leadership seems to be about pulling closer to people in a way that aligns your purpose with getting the job done.

Bridget Robinson, JD is a Milwaukee native. She has worked in Human Resources for over 15 years. She is passionate about developing leaders and keeping her pulse on workforce changes that impact the way we do business and provide services as a community. Bridget strives to be a connector of people to purpose and success. She is mother, writer, employment services specialist extraordinaire.

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