Tradeoffs: Another Reason Leadership is Hard

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Leadership is already hard. Leadership is people work, and no two people are alike. To make things even more fun, individuals don’t act the same way in every situation.

Decision-making isn’t easy, either. Many times, you don’t have a choice between right and wrong. The best you can do is a choice between almost right and probably wrong. Some problems have one solution. Some have no solution. Others have several. Problem-solving is not as easy or straightforward as the leadership books claim. And then, there are the tradeoffs.

Life may or may not be a bowl of cherries, depending on your situation. But leadership is a bowl of tradeoffs. Here are the three that have a big impact.

Tradeoff: People versus Task

This was identified more than half a century ago. You can focus on the people aspects of a challenge and work on those. Positive relationships are your top goal. Or you can focus on the task aspects and work on those. Then your top goal is accomplishing the mission. There’s no “right” way. It’s a tradeoff.

Tradeoff: Efficiency versus Innovation

You can use proven procedures, processes, and measurements to maximize efficiency. But that limits the experiments and improvisations that produce innovation. You can’t do both at once. There’s no “right” way. It’s a tradeoff.

Tradeoff: Today versus Tomorrow

When the pressure’s on, the present challenge drives out concern for the future. But today’s learning fuels tomorrow’s performance and learning means mistakes.  So you balance the learning against doing the best job today. There’s no “right” way. It’s a tradeoff.

What you must do.

Leadership is all about tradeoffs. The trick is to make them consciously. Stay vigilant and agile. Choose the tradeoff that’s best for you and your team.

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