Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Leadership Pitfalls: Working hard is the path to success

"Work hard, work hard, and work even harder."

Some leaders who are asked to give a lesson on their success to their legacy typically gives this speech. But in my opinion, this is one of the most demoralizing things to say.

First, are they saying those around them did not work hard? What about those who actually did work harder? They also typically add that they are first in, first out. And, they truly believe that.

This claim is very detrimental to morale. Whether you do work harder than everyone else, not everyone may believe that you do. Even the worst employees truly believe they work hard. It is equivalent to asking a person if they are a good person.

Somehow, I sit near these people (at different companies) who say these kinds of things. They rarely are even close to being the first or last people in the office. Not only are they not staying late, they are out the door very quickly. I am not saying that they don't work hard, but don't be claiming to be working more hours than you are. Also, I am typically the last person out the office. I have never been recognized for work effort.

Second, they appear to not understand how success works. Most of us know that success is not only hard work, but also being in the right place at the right time (and many other things). Those who feel that they were passed on a raise or promotion will feel more jilted listening to this speech. These people are now more likely to move on as their talents appear to be not recognized.


If given the opportunity to give a speech, leaders should focus on how the company has opened opportunities for people like him to contribute more to the group. Then follow up that the company is working on recognizing current talents and finding new opportunities.

My Sentiments

Most companies have backfilled my role with multiple positions. Also in almost all my roles, I have been the go-to person to backup almost everyone within my team. Basically, I am able to more than my roles but few are able to cover mine (even when I am the most junior on the team). I say this because I can personally say that hard work will not get you anywhere.

If anything, hard work will detriment your success. Working smart also will not help with your success, but it is required. Luck and abusing the system will increase your chances to be "successful". I have talked to quite a few peers of leaders mentioned above. Most of the "success" or break-through achievements are usually based on lies and the ignorance (true or turning a blind eye to save face) of those evaluating their performance.

This appear to be most obvious with government contracts. The strategy for one past company was to simply over-promise knowing they will not be able to deliver most of the items. Once they win the contract, they simply prolong and find excuses by blaming other groups. In my opinion, this was super easy to do because most people do not know how to manage a project. Most people fail to simply just respond to emails. When renegotiating contracts, they simply say that people don't follow up and that is why the project is behind. Also to save face, it is very difficult for clients to change to another vendor unless something went beyond obviously wrong.

Maybe I have warped the definition of success for this article but I hope most readers will understand where I am coming from. I still believe in my values, and still hope I will find a decent group to build my career. I am still in a good place to support myself and those around me. I still wish I can have the opportunity to be promoted to be a leader someday because I believe I can contribute more than other leaders, not because of the status of being a leader. My belief as a leader/manager is to work myself out of the role so that the team will be self-sustaining. If miraculously all leaders are deserving of their roles, I have no problems staying at the "bottom".

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