Last night I laughed. Not a polite chuckle at someone’s earnest attempt at humor, but a way-down-deep belly laugh with a group of people with whom I have a history, who know my shortcomings and love me anyway. And it revived my spirit as few other things could.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we leaders need that. We need a tribe of friends who don’t care about our title or our role or the many professional responsibilities we might have. Sure, they can be proud of you. They can respect your accomplishments, but they aren’t afraid to call you a dork, or poke fun at some of your most unscripted, nonleader-like moments. They keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and yet, illogically, they also make the most lofty goals seem attainable simply because they believe in you. No, they probably don’t say it, but when you are with them, you feel it.
Leadership can be lonely work. At times, you are called to make decisions that you would rather not have to make, and deal with situations that are far from ideal. It can wear on your soul, no matter how much you love your organization and its mission. And yet, if you’re lucky, just when you are starting to feel a bit frayed at the edges, your tribe steps in. Not with sympathy (are you kidding?) but rather with a firm reminder that you are more than your role in the organization (really, you’re not all that!). They pull you down to size and ultimately, that is what allows you to soar. That is what allows you to make the hard decisions so that your organization, and the people in it, can also reach new heights.
If you don’t have a tribe like that, find one. Make one. Be one for someone else. This leadership gig is too hard not to have a motley crew that will be there for you regardless of the bumps you encounter on any given day . . . who will roll their eyes at you, tell you to get over it, and then proceed to make you laugh so hard that the stress that was tying you in knots seems like a distant memory.
For those of us who take our role as a leader seriously, that is all the more reason not to take ourselves seriously. And the best way I know to keep it all in perspective is to surround yourself with a loyal, honest, and slightly irreverent tribe . . . and laugh.