The Nine Toughest Leadership Roles


Leadership 1

Credit: Craig Parylo

An article on Leadership by Rob Asghar in the February 25 Forbes Magazine ranked what in that author’s opinion are the nine toughest leadership roles. These are not scientifically evaluated, just offered in the words of the author as “one educated guess.” Here they are, in reverse order:

9. Corporate CEO

Cons: Angry shareholders, low employee morale, media scrutiny, and an impossible task of balancing long-term goals with quarterly ones.

Pro: A generation ago CEOs made 25 times what the average worker made. Now it’s over 250 times. So one really cares what the cons are.

8. United States Congressperson

Pros:  Even though Congressional approval rates hover around 15%, incumbents get reelected 90% of the time. Even a monumental scandal may not drive a congressman from office. And generous donations from special interests give you a clear map for how to vote on even the most complicated issues.

Cons: Every so often you wake up at 4:00 a.m. with a clear sense that you’re the cause of the nation’s problems.

7. Editor for a Daily Newspaper

Pros: You’re at the cutting edge of change within the global communications revolution.

Cons: It’s mostly you that’s getting cut.

6. Mayor

Pros:  Chance to ban large sodas and/or deport citizens who picked on you in grade school.

Cons: Unlike most politicians, you actually have to make sure that garbage gets collected, snow gets shoveled, and things get done. And worse yet, you often can’t fire the people who are getting in your way.

5. Pastor, Rabbi, Mullah or Other Holy Leader

Pros: You’re seen as a man or woman of God and what you say gets taken seriously, at least momentarily.

Cons: “Being a pastor is like death by a thousand paper cuts,” says Rev. Dr. Ken Fong, senior pastor at Evergreen Baptist Church in Rosemead, California and a program director at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. “You’re scrutinized and criticized from top to bottom, stem to stern. You work for an invisible, perfect Boss, and you’re supposed to lead a ragtag gaggle of volunteers towards God’s coming future. It’s like herding cats, but harder.”

4. Football Coach

Cons: You never see your spouse or kids.

Pros: You never see your spouse or kids. And it’s your chance to finally get that 24/7 attention you crave, usually from bitter, underpaid sports “journalists” and psychopathically unhappy callers to AM radio shows who blame you for 4,037 things outside your control.

3. Second-in-Command of Any Organization

Pros: As the company’s #2, you’re insulated from much of the searing heat that the top position faces. And many people flatter you by telling you (out of earshot of your boss) that you should be the real #1.

Cons: You’re less ready for the #1 job than you think. Even though you think you’re doing the true hard work while your insufferable boss basks in all the glory, you have no idea how much more complex, lonely and pressure-packed the #1 position is.

2. University President

Pros: People are pretty sure you’re super-smart.

Cons: People don’t like know-it-alls. And in addition to managing a huge and complex physical campus, you have to manage a thousand unmanageable constituencies—including picketing students, partying students, zealous alumni, Nobel laureates, hundreds or thousands of highly opinionated tenured professors that you can’t fire, and 10 to 15 separate sports franchises that would drive any NFL owner insane. And bear in mind that public university presidents have all the problems above, while additionally needing to wrestle with governors and state legislators and political groups.

1. Stay-At-Home Parent

Little known fact: While there are some 5 million stay-at-home mothers in the U.S., the number of stay-at-home fathers has tripled in recent years.

Pros: Comfortable, stretchy sweat-pant uniforms. Showering is optional. Freedom from water-cooler gossip and office backstabbing.

Cons: Condescending tone in the “Oh, staying at home is a very important job” statements that others make. The knowledge that, if you do your job badly, you’ll be raising the next generation of psychopaths and U.S. congresspersons. While it’s been calculated that the value of your work is a whopping $100,000 a year, your overpaid CEO spouse flaunts his or her paycheck as a way of showing that he or she doesn’t plan to help around the house. Even if you do your job right, the little ingrates move on and leave you with an empty nest.

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Obviously the author is prone to a bit of stylistic sarcasm. In my humble opinion all the leadership roles listed in his article are legitimate expressions of Christian vocation that have significant value and are at least potentially important for the good of society. There are many more such beneficial leadership roles and vocational callings than the nine in this article.

Regardless of the level of difficulty or sacrifice of the vocational calling of God in your life, I pray you find meaning and fulfillment in that calling. As St. Paul writes, in an admittedly different context: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

And Martin Luther adds this little note about Christian vocational calling: “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

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