A less spoken feature of great leadership is the art of managing the disappointments created by that same leadership. I call it the art of explaining ‘no, we can’t’. Or we couldn’t. ‘Yes we can’ is motivational and inspirational. ‘No, we can’t’, is its inconvenient ugly sister.
There will be disappointed people. I can assure you: the ambitions that could not be fulfilled completely; the compromises that others may find unpalatable.
Some people will feel you did not go far enough. Other people may feel you went too far. Dealing with satisfied followers is the easy part. Explaining to the dissatisfied is harder, but a noble feature of strong leadership.
There maybe trade offs to explain. Chances are some may have been invisible. There may be emergent barriers. Perhaps we were more resource constrained than we thought. Perhaps there was a high expectation of achieving X and we did not. But X is still the aim. Maybe some goals need postponing.
Explaining the disappointments is not the end of the story, but will embrace an extra percentage of people who will see honesty, courage, and guts; perhaps boldness. The winner of acknowledging and explaining disappointments is trust.
For each ‘yes we can’, find and explain the ‘we cannot, however’. This yin yang of expectations is powerful, often overlooked.
Throw embarrassment out of the window. Practice the humble act of saying no, explaining why, and describing what ‘we can however do’ and will do. You coming with me?
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