How To Lead Without Becoming Bitter

Have you ever heard someone say this: “Leadership would be great if it wasn’t for the people?”

Although this statement makes no sense, it seems to make a ton of sense for those of us that have held longstanding leadership positions. Everyday life can leave you bitter if you aren’t careful and being in leadership carries with it an even greater risk of becoming bitter. We’re leading people after all, not programmable robots.

The difficulty with leading people is that their humanity feels, is emotional, opinionated, broken, highly complex, and at its core…good. Believing that people are good but flawed makes leading them without becoming bitter a challenge. The more people you lead, the more opportunities for their hurt, opinions, criticisms, brokenness, etc. to end up directed toward you. And that’s not fair.

And although that is unfair it comes with leadership so if you can’t handle it, step aside and let someone who can handle it lead. (The challenge is even greater if you struggle with insecurities. If you do, get therapy, coaching, or a mentor to work through those issues. Gaining a leadership position doesn’t take your issues away, it just makes them public.)

I’ve spent well over 25 years in some form of leadership and I’ve discovered a simple, yet effective way of safeguarding your heart as a leader from bitterness taking you over. The greatest secret I have found to be a leader and not becoming bitter is simple yet profound…

Stop saying “People are…” and start saying “Persons are…”.

I’ve heard leaders say,

“People are impossible.”

“People are assholes.”

“People are mean.”

“People are ___________.” You fill in the blank.

The truth is that persons can be those things, but people in general aren’t. To say “people are” sets our mind in a state of certainty about how people are. Setting your mind in certainty closes your heart off from seeing people differently and results in drawing that type of behavior into your life and leadership. How you portray people says more about how you perceive them than how they truly are.

So next time someone you lead is a dick, don’t say “People are dicks!” Say, “Persons are dicks!” It will safeguard your own heart from beginning to experience all people from a place of negativity. Since bitterness grows only out of the soil of negativity, make sure your heart stays positive toward people over-all. Begin each day in a state of gratefulness for the people you lead and if someone is being a dick tell them to stop, don’t start thinking and saying all people are.

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