Friday, April 17, 2009

Disappointing Leadership Decisions

I just learned that the MS 150 - a two day bike ride from Houston to Austin is going to be the MS 75 - a one day bike ride from LaGrange to Austin.  Severe weather in Texas is forcing the ride organizers to cancel day 1.

I'm disappointed.  

I've been training since last November and felt ready to try a long two day ride.  A final 74 mile tuneup last Saturday was a great confidence boost.  I was even prepared to deal with rain and wind if needed.

I also understand the decision.  There are more than 12,000 riders registered for the MS 150.  The logistics of managing and caring for those riders is a huge task.  I've been impressed by everything the MS 150 folks have done and if they've decided it's too dangerous to ride - I trust that it's too dangerous to ride.

Still, I'm disappointed and my disappointment is a great leadership reminder. 

Almost every decision a leader makes disappoints someone - that simply comes with leadership territory.  And sometimes the right decisions can disappoint everyone and still be the right decision.  I suspect there are 12,000 disappointed riders this evening in Houston... but canceling day one is still the right decision.

Good leadership is not defined by making everyone happy.  I love to point out that only twice in the Bible did a leaders ask the people which decision would make them happy.  The first time resulted in a golden calf - the second time a crucifixion.  

It's o.k. for leaders to disappoint people - in fact it's actually a sign of good leadership.


  1. Isn't it ok for managers to disappoint people, but good leaders lead people to understand decisions and follow? The two examples in the Bible weren't good leadership in action, they were just vote-taking. Simply taking a vote has never been an example of good leadership. Good leaders have faithful followers. Disappointment seems to be an indicator that the followers have lost faith in the leader--at least as related to that decision...

  2. I'm not sure that disappointment necessarily equates to a loss of faith in the leader. For example - I and a whole lot of fans are disappointed when our team loses because a coach decided to disciple a player by a suspension. Yet in my disappointment my trust in the coach actually might increase.

    Obviously if leadership ONLY disappoints people there is a loss of faith in the leader.

    Too often leaders use vote-taking to avoid disappointing others or to at least minimize the number of people disappointed. Had Aaron refused to cast the calf he would have had a lot of disappointed (and that's probably an understatement) people on his hands - but it would have been the right decision.