On Leadership, Excellence, and Tough Love

Tough Love

Strong leadership demands excellence and tough love. The balance between these attributes is oftentimes difficult to juggle. It is sometimes even more difficult to know in which direction one should go during times of stress or problems.

So how should a leader think about leading others with excellence and tough love?

Ask Yourself Some Questions

In order to help get and keep your leadership bearings, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I demand excellence of myself?
  • Do I think excellence is a realistic expectation for others?
  • Is there a moral obligation associated with my work?
  • As a leader do I have an obligation to do my best to create an environment where each person feels included and empowered?
  • Does my behavior convey that I place importance on accountability and responsibility?

Getting a Grip

Life is difficult…

…and once I accepted this fact, life seemed to get less difficult.

When I attended a commencement speech a few years ago the speaker made quite an impression on me with the statement “life is a bumpy road with the occasional smooth spots along the way, not the other way around.”

Many of us seem to go through our days expecting life to be easy, and to mostly stay that way. When the “bumps” come our response is often to get upset, angry, or super-stressed.

The simple act of viewing life as a bumpy road (while reminding myself that it is probably one that I can navigate capably) helps me to respond with equanimity when troubles arise.

You are not that important…

…and in the grand scheme of things, we all really are not that important on a global scale.

There have been millions and millions of people who lived before us and only a small number made their way into history books. While babysitting my two-year old grandson, one day I found myself pondering my own mortality and wondering “Who will remember me after him?”

Then I thought, “Who cares, just as long as he remembers me!”

A sense of our place in the universe, living an honorable life, and do a good job with the gifts we have been given seems a worthy pursuit– even if we might not be destined to make the impact of a Mozart, Thomas Edison, or Nelson Mandela.

You are not in control…

…and yet, many of us spend a lot of effort trying to be in control.

How much of our lives can we actually control anyway? Can we control the weather, the traffic or what happens tomorrow? Have you ever had the experience of everything going nicely according to plan only to have some person or unexpected event come along to “mess things up”?

I prefer to view each day as an opportunity for influence (preferably positive) rather than an opportunity for a wrestling match with control.

You life is not just about you…

…and with a little humility, we can see that none of us achieved our successes in life totally on our own.

Parents, teachers, coaches, mentors—someone else helped us along the way. In that sense we stand on the shoulders of others. So some fair questions are these:

Are your shoulders strong enough for the next generation?

Who will you mentor?

Who will you encourage?

What can you do?

And the last fact is the biggie… You are going to die…We try not to think about it, but it is a fact…

In some of my programs I offer what I call the greatest time management principle of them all.

It is this: Live each day as though it is your last day and some day you’ll actually be right!

It is an easy way to keep priorities clear.  Did you enjoy the sunrise this morning? Have you told those important to you how much they mean? Is there a kind word or deed you can offer today? Why wait?


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Frank Bucaro is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc.
He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
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Image Sources:  mylipsbutbetter.com

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4 responses to “On Leadership, Excellence, and Tough Love

  1. Awesome set of statements! It’s always a challenge to keep some perspective in the heat of the day-to-day battle. Thanks for this.


  2. Great Article and great insights into being a strong leader – even in tough times. I always tell my clients that a positive attitude is everything to your success as a leader.


  3. “Strong leadership demands excellence and tough love…Do I demand excellence of myself” – Frank, you nailed it with this post.


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