Often I hear that it is “lonely’ at the top, and I believe that the historic view of the role of leadership, as the one with all of the answers have exacerbated this. The leader is expected to come up with the vision, inspire, manage and motivate people. At the same time as dealing with escalations and issues of the business, and more than likely dealing, with all of the financial challenges. There are, however, three ways that the leader can ensure that they do not become isolated and also engage the team, in turn becoming a better leader:
- Work with your Leadership team
- Work with peers
- Get a Mentor
Working with your Leadership Team
The first is essential, and not just to help to make it better for the leader. By working closely with the Leadership team, you will deliver better results for the organization, ensure that the team are engaged and create the new leaders of tomorrow. When I say working with, I mean just that. Bring the team together and let them be involved in the thinking process and give them the opportunity to influence the vision and objectives. Of course they may come up with some strange ideas, (you probably do to!), however, you will come up with stronger visions, that people feel connected to and at the same time you are helping them to think slowly and creatively.
Every team I work with to come up with a vision, struggles initially. It is a skill to come up with a vision that really connects everyone and often it starts as a wordy feel of “business speak” statement. I recommend that you get all of the key words down on the page, throw out the words that are ambiguous or jargon and start to hone the statement and then test it with your wider team. You want to get to a phrase that everyone remembers and feels comfortable saying out loud!
Once you have worked with your team on the vision and how you are going to achieve it, your role is less of the person dragging reluctant people behind you and rather you become the conductor and facilitator of the engagement. In my experience, this not only makes for a very rewarding leadership experience but it also delivers results!
Work with Peers
Whether these are people in the same organisation or outside of the organisation, share your experiences with them and support each other. Encourage them to hold up the mirror to you and to supportively challenge you. Creating a network of peers who are willing to share their stories and challenges, is a great way to get different perspectives and ensure you do not exist in an “echo chamber”, Feedback is a really valuable process for development and it is helpful to have a “safe” environment and trusted advisors with whom you can explore your approaches.
Get a Mentor
We all need to talk and to have someone who is able to give us their full attention is exceptionally powerful. If you are lucky enough to have a mentor who has experience of sector and can share with you stories that might help you with difficult situations, then that is ideal. We are all likely to resist being told what we “should” do and so a mentor with a coaching style will be of most benefit for your development.
So, it doesn’t need to be lonely at the top, and as we become more collaborative the “lone leader” style of leadership is likely to die on the vine. We must ensure we do not become isolated leaders and in engaging with our teams, we develop ourselves as a leaders and prepare the next generation of leaders for leadership.