Although I’ve been doing a lot of leadership lately, whether in the context of working on my musical, managing parts of my men’s organization, or something else, leading isn’t easy for someone with my personality.
My first instinct is usually to make sure people around me are satisfied, and when I’m dealing with a large enough group (say, around three or more people), satisfying everyone tends to be impossible without sacrificing the entire purpose of the group.
There’s No Simple Three-Step Solution
It might be nice if I could let go of this instinct by just reminding myself, like a self-help bestseller might, that “you can’t make everyone happy,” or “you should find a balance between pleasing others and pleasing yourself.”
But it isn’t quite that simple. The feeling I get when someone in a group I’m leading is displeased with something I’ve done can be intense and visceral — it isn’t just a matter of coolly observing “oh, someone is unsatisfied.”
Understanding why I have this feeling has definitely given me some useful perspective. In the past, I’ve thought of my desire to please as simply a weakness of character that needs to be erased, but the reality is more complicated.
Seeing That It Comes From Love
The truth, I think, is that the desire to satisfy people comes from a place of love and compassion for others — it’s not there because I’m a bad or weak person. I start trying to please everybody when I lose sight of the limits of my ability to help people.
After all, as much compassion as I might feel for those around me, it’s beyond my power to make sure they’re always satisfied or never upset. There’s no way I could control all the factors that create their state of mind.
What’s more, I think, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is tell someone “no,” and avoid giving them unrealistic expectations or spreading ourselves too thin to be of real service.
When I stop making a problem out of my urge to satisfy the groups I lead, and recognize that this need comes from a loving place, leadership becomes much easier. Instead of criticizing myself for wanting to please, I can focus on how I can act in healthy, balanced ways from that loving place. Rather than trying to squelch my desire to help or satisfy, I can look for ways to serve that desire that don’t leave me exhausted or resentful.
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