I think of Leadership in terms of heroes and villains.
Villains are free to do whatever they want and pretty much get away with it, until a hero steps in. Villains can slack off, cheat, be dishonest, act recklessly, and never consider consequences for their actions.
Heroes must win while playing by the rules, doing the right thing the right way, and considering actions before taking them.
The burden of leadership is that leaders must be heroes–role models for others to look up to. We do not get to take the easy way out; we must live and act according to our own values (which is the very reason people are willing to follow us). We must understand the people we are leading may not have the same fortitude or character they expect a leader to always exhibit.
It can be frustrating when you feel the weight of leadership bearing down on you while others seem to get away with everything… but nobody promised being a leader would be easy or that every day would be rewarding.
The key is to remember who you are and why you choose to step up and stand for something more than the workday or the status quo. We have the choice to be average at any time, just as heroes always have the choice to put away the cape and mask. The number one performer in a company can always choose to be the number 15 performer–skating just under the radar, doing enough to stay out of trouble but never taking on the burden of moving forward.
For better or worse, that is just not who we are as leaders. It is not within us to stand back and hide our greatness in times of crisis, despair, or a competition of values. It is not within us to allow people on our team to hide their greatness either. We take on the burden of being coaches, mentors, counselors, teachers, friends, and drill sergeants as needed.
The funny thing is, heroes never give up on villains; they always hope to bring them back to the light, to help them back to the path of being heroic or standing for something (more). Villains, on the other hand, may or may not be conflicted, may or may not be willing to change, may or may not be willing to be something more than they are.
The difference between heroes and villains, between leaders and stragglers, is that villains never remember what they stand for or why they should want to be something greater… and heroes never forget.