Making Tough Calls, Part Two of Two

Leaders are always looking for energizing leadership principles to apply in their contexts. It gives them something to focus on, teach their teams, and further their missions. However, the leadership principle discussed in this post is not one of these principles. This one is not motivating and is extremely difficult to apply.

When not applied, however, it can be deadly to your organization.

In Part One of this post, we said it’s always easier to work around someone or hire around someone than it is to remove him or her. Personnel changes can be messy and painful, but they are a necessary part of a healthy organization. There is a leadership principle that applies to these situations, but it is not for the faint of heart.

The principle:  Always sacrifice the one for the many, never the many for the one.

The objections are obvious. “But isn’t that insensitive? It sounds heartless.” And while it may seem that way at first glance, it is actually insensitive to the many to refuse to deal with the one. Everyone benefits when everyone contributes. And everyone suffers when one person is not fully contributing. Refusing to apply this principle will negatively impact the morale and health of your organization.

“Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people.”  – Good to Great by Jim Collins

It is also insensitive to the one to keep him or her in a position that hinders the progress of the organization. To work around the one is dishonoring to the one. Everyone knows what is happening. Eventually, the one knows it as well. Intentionally or unintentionally, we should be careful to never embarrass or frustrate someone. To work around the one also robs him or her of future opportunities. Freeing their futures allows them to move on to a better job fit.

When you sacrifice the many for the one, nobody wins—ultimately.

When you sacrifice the one for the many, everybody wins—eventually.

Individuals who negatively influence the organization must be removed or reassigned. This principle stands at the center of all we believe as Christians. God sacrificed the one, Jesus, for the many, humanity. As is always the case, the decision turned out to be in the best interests of the one and the many.

Either way, someone is going to be disappointed. Will it be one or many?

Either way, someone is going to be mad. Will it be the people you can least afford to have mad at you?

Either way, only a few will understand exactly why you did what you did. Will you bear the burden that, with time, will become clear?


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