Sep 222014 7 Responses

Leadership: Learning to Take a Punch

Every leader has to be able to know how to take a punch.

It’s an aspect of leadership I never expected. When you dream of leadership, you never know that there are going to be days in which you feel beat up. I’m not asking for sympathy. This isn’t about me. You probably feel the same at times.

No matter who you lead, there are times in which punches are thrown. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

Few people really mean to throw a punch. They aren’t ill-intended; the last thing they would want to do is hurt you. It’s just part of life. As they do their job, live their lives, and strive to do what they should, they throw punches.

Many are justified. Most are just an aspect of leadership. But they still hurt, and on many occasions the punches add up, creating a state of exhaustion.

Of course some punches are intentional. Some people don’t like you, what you are doing, what you stand for, or all they know is to throw a punch at every person who is trying to do anything worthwhile.

Strangely the intentional punches are sometimes the easiest to take. They are expected, understood, and explainable. Too many of them might be overwhelming, but every leader knows that on occasion they will take a punch from someone who is unhappy.

What surprises us is how often it feels like we are taking a punch from a friend, an ally, or even ourselves.

The difference between good leaders and bad leaders is not the presence or absence of punches, it is the ability to take a punch and keep on going. (See: What No One Ever Tells You About Being a Leader)

Of course the question arises: What exactly is a punch? And the truth is, anything that feels like a punch is a punch. Anything which stops momentum, feels like a rub in a relationship, is difficult, personal, or hard-to-handle qualifies as a punch.

It hurts. We wish it didn’t happen. And if too many of them occur, we feel under attack.

Many punches need to happen. Differences need to be discussed, opinions need to be expressed, and issues need to be worked through.

As leaders, we don’t need to limit the punches which are thrown; we need to learn how take the punches which are thrown.

  • How can receive criticism without it hurting our heart?
  • How can we give the proper empathy when someone brings up an issue we consider small?
  • How can we stay focused on the mission when others want to pull us other directions?
  • How can we hear the concerns of others without taking it as a personal attack?
  • How can we show weariness even though others may not understand?

Unless a leader can take a punch, he cannot lead. At least he can’t for long. He might be able to for a period of time, but eventually he will get bitter, worn-out, and unable or unwilling to continue. (See: Leadership, Leaves, and Why We Should Never Give Up)

But a good leader knows how to take a punch.

She expects it as a part of leadership.

She regularly replenishes her soul in order to ensure she has strength.

She is so passionate about the mission that nothing will stand in her way.

She refuses to take any punch personally.

She seeks outside perspective to keep her on task.

She interacts with other leaders who also know what it is like to take a punch.

There are secrets about leadership which only leaders know. Tell someone about taking a punch as a leader and if they don’t understand the metaphor, they probably aren’t a leader. Tell it to someone else and they know exactly what you are talking about. (See: Who Wants to be a Leader?)

If you want to lead, learn how to take a punch.

7 Responses to Leadership: Learning to Take a Punch
  1. […] But how? (See: Leadership–Learning to Take a Punch) […]... kevinathompson.com/lesson-longevity-coach-k
  2. […] When a lack of appreciation intersects with power, abuse is likely. (See: Learning to Take a Punch)... kevinathompson.com/power-intersects-lack-appreciation
  3. […] Leading requires risk. (See: Leadership–Learning to Take a Punch) […]... kevinathompson.com/others-dont-trust
  4. […] It’s a fascinating thing played out at family dinner tables, high government negotiations, a... kevinathompson.com/picking-a-hill-on-which-to-die
  5. […] When she was four or five, I had to continually remind myself that she was only 4 or 5. She was so t... kevinathompson.com/man-acts-like-child
  6. […] Leaders know better. (See: Leadership–Learning to Take a Punch) […]... kevinathompson.com/some-dont-succeed

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