I know you’ve heard it and you may even have said it yourself: it’s lonely at the top. Well today, we are tearing down this popular leadership myth. On the surface, it doesn’t seem so damaging, right? In fact, it’s understandable. The most common use of the phrase is when we are empathizing with the notion that in many organizations, the “buck stops here” with the most senior leaders.
Difficult decisions are made; they can’t be avoided. Some have tried to delegate these difficult tasks to subordinates with varying levels of success. Usually, shareholders, executive boards, senior leadership teams, peers, direct reports, all the way to the shop floor, have an expectation that when the going gets touch, the leader is going to do the hard things and take us all through it, right?
Wrong. It’s weird because I’m not going to say anything today that you are going to be like “Wow, Mark, that was really revolutionary.” That’s because when you think about this topic, and we discuss what great leadership looks like, you are going to say – “Exactly, I knew that’s how it should be.” When you believe that the answers reside with a single individual, when you allow a perspective to guide you that says “the CEO is unerring,” then you are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
That sounds controversial, especially if you are the CEO! But it’s true if you believe that leaders are there to draw together the best answers from their team. Leaders are in their roles, not because they know everything, but because collectively, they know how to work with their teams to draw out solutions to very difficult problems.
Avoid the pitfalls with these ideas:
- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
- Have a discussion, not a lecture, with your team about living personal and corporate values
- Engage employees in ownership thinking
- Don’t compromise your values
- Identify, and talk about it, when there are clashes with personal values
- Ask others to talk about what they would do if this difficult decision were theirs
Remember, it’s not good enough to just think you were doing the right thing
Dr. Cloud’s tips for keeping your leadership tank full:
- Be intentional about who you surround yourself with
- Engage rhythms – daily habits, take inventory daily
- Search out experiences – they provide growth opportunities
- Always take feedback as it’s the quickest way to learn
I want to leave you with some of Dr. Cloud’s thoughts on this. He said if it’s lonely at the top, it’s your fault and you better resign. Being lonely at the top tells him that you have insulated yourself! There is no such thing as a man as an island. You are simply not being vulnerable enough to share. Great leaders, the best ones, are not lonely at all. They are close to people inside their organization and they have good, close friends outside the organization.
Who are you going to connect with this week?
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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