Leadership Pain: Putting Blood, Sweat, and Tears Into Others

“Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its limitations. —PETER DRUCKER”
Samuel Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth

When did I come to realize that we were unusual? It was a personality test we took 17 years ago.  Marc and I both scored the same score.  Do you know how rare that is?  But even more rare is that we were both strong leaders, strong thinkers, with determination as part of our profile.  I wasn’t exactly excited about these results as I probably made the same face you are making now. What?  We are going to offend the world.  And, that’s where we begin.

Step forward to where we are now.  Our leadership roles have many circles. We have family, colleagues, international partners, and gatherings from across seas.  We interact within each of these circles as leaders. We both want to be the best leaders we can. If we are to accomplish the goal stated above “raising of a man’s performance” then we must understand who we are and who we are not.  Apologize for our mistakes and work in our strengths 90% of the time. It is in these personalities where the pain and good play out.

Blood Sweat and Tears: Our Gifts Are Our Worst Curse.

My vision for what I want to accomplish is big.  It better be.  I know as a leader that not accomplishing everything I set out for will lead to regret.  I also know that my vision is more than a man-made dream but a God given task and calling. Pushing towards that goal will make me and others uncomfortable.  The discomfort is often misinterpreted by the one experiencing it.  It is at that point where our gifts and calling can be the cause of great pain.  But, as the following quote says. .

“1. Comfort is overrated. It doesn’t lead to happiness. It makes us lazy—and forgetful. It often leads to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent. 2. Discomfort can be a catalyst for growth. It makes us yearn for something more. It forces us to change, stretch, and adapt. 3. Discomfort is often a sign we’re making progress. You’ve heard the expression, “no pain, no gain.” It’s true! When you push yourself to grow, you will experience discomfort.” Michael Hyatt

Pain is absolutely necessary in good leadership but why?  The people you lead must see that you are willing to suffer to meet the goal and that you will work hard to get to that goal.  Then, they will believe what you teach.

I remember in the beginning of leading in our organization when my commitment was tested by those I led.  Being a nurse practitioner in a third world country, a lot is expected of me by those I work with and those I serve.  One day, the TV news showed a woman in a car wreck who couldn’t pay her medical bills.  Being all over the news channels, I felt certain someone would care for her and she did not live near the areas that we were currently helping medically.  I got a phone call from one of our employees telling me about this woman’s dire situation.  I responded with my felt confidence that the woman would be cared for and that I did not feel she needed my intervention.  Without my knowledge, I quickly became known us uncompassionate and not caring by several of those who we worked with. There were quite a few whispers and looks when I walked into the work place the next day but I could never seem to convince the employees that I was caring and compassionate.  A month of quiet continued until the mother of the employee who stirred the pot, got severely ill.  My husband and I drove far to visit her and walked her through her illness.  After that month, the employees stopped the gossip and I was able to lead again with more trust and respect than I had had before.

Important things to remember from this example is that I am confident in what my gifts are.  I am compassionate and caring and I don’t change my opinion of myself based on criticism.  It takes loved ones in my life who can help redefine my gifts.

When it comes to your gifts as a leader, the key is to use these gifts sacrificially and never expect more from those you lead than you are willing to give yourself.  Many will still choose to reject you but your true followers will be loyal to the end.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Rejection

Some love us and some hate us.  Not because of mistakes but often just because of who we are.  You need to hear that.  Because of this truth, rejection often doesn’t make sense.  Because it doesn’t make sense, it is often even more painful.

“How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win. —G. K. Chesterton”
Samuel Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth

When you lead from your heart, this truth plays out: for every 1 that hates you, there will be 10 who love you.  I don’t know where I’ve heard this before but it is true in my life.  The sooner this people-pleasing woman figured this out and accepted it, the better leader I became.

I’ve also come to realize that when people fail, they seem to often blame their leader.  I’ve never understood that but have found it true.  I have had many different leaders in life and some are naturally good, some work at being good, and some just don’t try and therefore are pretty bad!  But, if I fail in achieving my God given goals in life, then I am the only one to blame.  Not my leaders.  But, like it or not.  Every leader will be blamed at times.  But, I had to decide, what was I going to do with that blame?

Blood Sweat and Tears: Is It Worth It?

“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us.  In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.” Elisabeth Elliott

When God chooses pain as part of our path in leadership, we have been chosen to a select group.  A group of people who will enjoy His intimacy in a deeper way.  People who are stripped of their desire to please all people but are plunged into a flow of people who live for eternity on their mind.  I want to be that person. Do you?

People always say “be careful what you pray for!”  I believe that’s true.  As a kid, I was always the one to take the dare.  Yes, I caused my mom and dad much leadership pain!

me bad!
In 1985, my sponsors at camp decided they had enough of me!! I don’t know what I did but I probably deserved this.

When it comes to prayer, I’m pretty much the same way.  I want to always be purposeful for impacting lives around me physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  I want to change this world and not be just a drop in a bucket.  I want to be what He wants me to be even if it hurts.  The pain I have felt and will feel, I trust Him.  I truly believe that all pain is temporary and by His choosing. Because of the way I now view pain, I can accept it when it comes into my life.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Can I Lead Without Pain?

My question back would be “why would you want to?” If the greatest leaders in life including Jesus choose pain to bring their followers the best things in life, shouldn’t we?

“The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on.”
Samuel Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth

Pain is a part of growth because we should have essential pieces to meeting our goal that are so important that we refuse to compromise.  Everything that grows experiences pain. If I avoid pain, I’m avoiding growth.

Several years ago, as I was struggling with pain in my own leadership, my Khmer friend (and employee) saw the emotional weight I carried.  Underweight, sunken eyes, red from tears, she could see the pain in me.  She stared at me and pointed at the mango seeds lying on a mat in the road.  The mango seeds were being dried of all life so they could be replanted.  She described this process and said “death is necessary for that seed to bring about delicious fruit for all to enjoy!”  How wise is she.

Avoidance of pain is a natural reaction.  Being a good leader requires going for the bullet.  I have had to make decisions that were right but not accepted by others. It’s those moments when you realize “I am going to say this but I know there will be fallout.”

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: So You Want That Promotion?

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Luke 14:28

Count the cost before stepping in.  Leadership may or may not be your place at this time.  Your time and emotional energy will be depleted.  As mentioned many times, in order to lead it requires blood, sweat, and tears on your part.  I meet many leaders who I truly believe if they had known how difficult it would have been, they would have turned down the offer to lead years ago!  But, sometimes we are blessed by not seeing the future.  The question for you is “are you willing to make the sacrifices required and continue to work hard when the pain comes?”

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Endurance

95% of leadership is endurance.  What’s the 5%?  The calling and vision! And, thats what will keep you there and the reason why there are those who want to follow you.

Lead on friend!


Many of the quotes seen in this article came from this very useful book:

5 Comments on “Leadership Pain: Putting Blood, Sweat, and Tears Into Others

  1. There is a lot to comment on here, and I’ll certainly take the time to reflect further. The role of pain in growth, and specifically leadership, is often considered foundational. It seems intuitive that we must struggle in order to reach our destination. We must endure pain in order to transform (and guide others in this transformation). But I wonder if we’ve accepted this as a given for so long that now we use pain, and suffering, as a guidepost in order to choose our paths. In other words, have we learned to seek out the most challenging (or painful) path? It’s an interesting hypothesis and one I’ll be giving some thought to over the coming days. Thanks so much for sharing and good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome back Gabe! The insight you bring is so unique and deep. I think you could write a book on your hypothesis!! Thank you for sharing your insight and please come back!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Matt! I am always seeking those who write out of experience and pain instead of repeating what they heard from a book! I heard you saw my mom last Sunday! Forgive her as she is a bit forgetful these days. She was so happy to meet you. God bless you!


  3. Drucker, Chesterton, Hyatt and Elisabeth Elliott…you’ve impressed me again! I agree that most growing requires some pain and suffering. I love Romans 5:1-5 on this subject. Check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

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