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“not everyone will like you” and other hard truths about being a leader

Let’s talk about the real-life ups and downs of being a leader. Angeley Mullins has seen it all—from the high-energy startup scene to the boardrooms of global giants, not to mention being named one of the most influential women in sales. She’s been in the thick of it, making tough calls and pushing through challenges that would make many balk. In a heart-to-heart chat, Angeley opens up about what it really takes to lead, the bumps along the way, and how sometimes, not being liked comes with the territory. Dive in as Angeley shares the lessons she’s learned on her journey, offering a mix of hard truths and encouragement for those stepping up to lead.

Alisa Kapic

meet Angeley Mullins

Angeley’s impressive track record spans continents and industries, from tech giants like Amazon and GoDaddy to innovative platforms like Resourcify. Her journey is marked by her roles as a commercial executive and a passionate advocate for women in leadership and diversity at the executive level. Recognized by Crunchbase as one of the most influential women in sales, Angeley brings to the table a wealth of experience in steering companies towards commercial growth, brand development, and international expansion. As she shares her leadership journey with us, Angeley’s insights offer not just a window into the challenges and triumphs of a leader but also a beacon of inspiration for aspiring leaders everywhere.

Leadership can be a lonely road... Being comfortable in your own skin and comfortable with yourself is the best way to overcome pressure and loneliness.

Many first-time leaders enter their roles with preconceived notions that may not align with the realities of leadership. These misconceptions can stem from idealized portrayals in media, hearsay, or even our own aspirations of what leadership should look like. Angeley, what are some misconceptions you had about leadership before you became a leader yourself?

One of the biggest misconceptions I had was that leadership was always fun all the time! This might sound very conventional however the majority of your career in leadership will actually be very challenging and difficult. You as the leader will be tasked with solving challenges that others were not able to solve or to turn around situations that seem extremely tough. As a leader your ability to push through these challenges will become paramount. The fun of course comes afterwards however the journey itself can sometimes be quite difficult so being prepared for that is extremely important.

When it comes to leading, what has been the most difficult lesson for you to learn so far?

As a leader you always prefer that everyone likes you and understands where you are coming from. In essence that is the entire idea of bringing others along. However one of the hardest truths about leadership is that not everyone will like you, agree with you, or understand your decisions. In this case, there is a very significant question you need to ask yourself: How do you lead others who fundamentally disagree with you or see your style as a contradiction to their own beliefs?

This is an important part of the leadership journey and it actually reminds me of a quote from Margaret Thatcher (one of the few female prime ministers of the UK): “If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”

As difficult as it can be, some of the best achievements, progress, and success have come from situations where you as a leader have to push through with an ideal, opinion, or direction that makes you unpopular. Resistance to change is one of the most predictable behaviours within companies and with teams. In fact, the more resistance, the more you know that the change you are pushing through can make a critical difference. Use the opposition as a way to really think about your own values and what you stand for. Remember- if change was easy then everyone would do it. However, the important thing is to remember who you are.

Let’s talk fuc*ups - could you share a mistake you've made in your leadership journey and what it taught you?

One of the biggest mistakes I have made in my leadership journey has been to think that everything is always successful and the path to success is linear. The reality of the situation is that your leadership journey will have successes and failures and things will always take unexpected twists and turns. You need to be prepared for the ups and downs. The majority of the greatest leaders I have seen have gone through significant turmoil to get there. Very rarely do I see great leaders have soft and stable careers. It is those exact challenges you face that make you into a great leader. The mistake is your mentality towards it- if you believe that these things are happening “ to you” then you will not learn from the situation. The best leaders understand that these challenges happen “ for you” so you can become the best leader you are capable of.

How do you cope with the pressure and loneliness that can come with leadership roles?

Leadership can be a lonely road and many leaders discuss that hard truth that they feel they have to walk that path alone. Others around you have a perception that being a leader means that you have everything figured out when that is not the case. Good leadership means understanding where you are strong and where you need to develop and working towards that. Being comfortable in your own skin and comfortable with yourself is the best way to overcome pressure and loneliness.

Saying leaders don’t need to have everything figured out. How do you lead through uncertainty or during tough times, when you don’t have the answers?

Early in my career I was taught that showing vulnerability or challenges is considered weak - only later in my career I have learned that it takes the strongest leaders to admit vulnerability and uncertainty.

There is a school of thought in leadership that you need to “hide” the challenges of the business or what you are going through, but I believe this is a critical mistake. The best thing to do is to explain to others what the challenges are and why certain circumstances are tough.

The best leaders will show their vulnerability and admit that things are challenging. This creates trust and is not a form of weakness but a critical strength.

How do you handle it in case people don’t agree with you, especially after showing vulnerability?

Going through the process, listening and taking feedback or criticism into consideration is the best course of action. Understanding where that feedback is coming from and also the reasons and context is critical. Also understanding that at a certain level you as a leader you “need to be all things to all people” which can be extremely difficult. Some feedback will celebrate you for a certain character trait or attribute while others will give feedback that the same trait they view in a critical light. Feedback like this can be really tough because it puts you into a place of “which changes should I make or which way should I go?” Always keep in mind that someone else's opinion is just that- an opinion. You decide the truth about who you are and how you respond.

What’s the ugly part of leadership?

Downsizing teams and departments is one of the worst things a leader can be asked to do. However, treating others as humans and having real discussions around the topic is extremely important. It is not the failure of a project or initiative that people will remember, but how you handled it as a leader. In fact there have been situations where I have had to let people go but then help them to find other jobs that actually turned out to be more suitable for them. In the end they thanked me for helping them. Again, it is about dignity and humanity within the situation - for both sides.

Going through all these challenges and still coming out stronger - how did you build your resilience?

For me, it is about building up your personal attributes to overcome your professional challenges for yourself and your teams. People build resilience by strengthening their inner selves, not by a process or methodology. In fact, strengthening your inner self is the only way to build resilience. This is not something they will teach you in business school, however it is one of the most important learnings you can have in your career.

What is the most important advice or insight you would give to the next generation of leaders?

Women are taught (or at least I was) that you can have it all… I would say to the aspiring female leaders out there that is not the truth. I have never seen female leaders have it all (career, family, extra hobbies) at the same time. This is the caveat. Your life as a leader is an ebb and flow… it is not everything at once. Understand where you are in your own journey and index what is important to you at a particular time. Know when to focus on which aspect of your life is important to you at a particular time- this will help you focus and to do things well. Doing everything at once will limit your ability to achieve excellence in whichever goal (personal or professional) you have. Spreading yourself too thin doesn’t help you achieve your goals. Remember to focus and understand what is important to you for your own life and career and then work towards that.

Reflecting on Angeley’s experiences brings to light an essential truth about leadership: it’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Her stories remind us that leadership isn’t just about the highs of success but also about navigating the lows with courage and learning from them. Leadership is a mosaic of experiences—some pieces shine brightly while others are there to teach us valuable lessons.

Whether you're stepping into a leadership role for the first time or you're seasoned in your field, remember that growth often happens in the most unexpected ways. It's the challenges we face and overcome that truly define our leadership. So, what will your next step be? How will you turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s triumphs?

Got inspired by Angeley’s story?


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