Why People Who Want Their Leader to Be a Cheerleader Are Getting It Wrong

Everyone needs someone to motivate and inspire them, whether it’s a parent or a minister or an athlete. People often look to their leaders for that kind of inspiration. And on the surface it makes sense: who wouldn’t want a leader who’s positive and encouraging compared to one who talks tough or is focused on outcomes rather than people? But wanting your leader to be your cheerleader is actually a big mistake.

Don’t get me wrong—I believe that leaders should be inspiring and positive. But we need much more from those who lead us:

We need leaders who will challenge us today so we can be better tomorrow. To be challenged can be uncomfortable, and it doesn’t always come with a feel-good message. Motivating people to achieve great things means stimulating and influencing and provoking them to do more and be more. It may not feel good in the moment, but often “You can do better—try again” is exactly what we need to hear.

We need leaders who are straight shooters, not sugar-coaters. Not everything a leader has to say is positive. Growth requires someone who will be honest and direct and tell it like it is, and experiencing criticism expressed openly and honestly can make teams stronger and more productive. We miss out on lots of opportunities for learning and development when we’re surrounded by soft-pedaling critics.

We need leaders who care less about being liked and more about being respected. Part of being a leader is making tough decisions. And if the leader is a good one, people will respect those decisions even if they dislike them. Leaders have to look at the big picture, and sometimes that means having the courage to do things that are unpopular—but those who are willing to make tough decisions for the good of all are ultimately the most admired.

We need leaders who are experts, not enthusiasts. At the end of the day, do you want a leader who spends all day speaking lots of positive messages but doesn’t make a meaningful contribution to your team’s work? Far better to have an expert who is optimistic and skillful. There are plenty of leaders who try to make people feel good without giving them much to think about. But effective leadership makes you think—and then feel good about it.

We all want bosses, managers and leaders who make us feel good, but it’s far more important—for ourselves and for our teams—that we find the people who can help us develop, grow and evolve. What we all need most is a leader we can trust and respect, one who will challenge us to discover our own motivation and become our own cheerleaders.

Lead from within: The best leaders might not be the biggest cheerleaders but those who challenge us the most—and because they do, we respect them for it.

#1 N A T I O N A L  B E S T S E L L E R

The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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