What Every Leader Needs



As soon as I finish writing this blog, I am going to close my computer and spend the day with a dear friend who is visiting from out of town. I have known her for decades, and she is the kind of friend who, along with being one of my biggest cheerleaders, is not afraid to challenge my perspective, or tell me I just need to get over something, or throw out a question and then leave me to wrestle with it. She is the kind of friend that every leader needs.

Even when you have a great leadership team, which I absolutely do, organizations tend to take on the perspective of the leader. People learn to present ideas in ways that fit with the leader’s approach. And that’s a good thing! It is also a good thing for a leader to have one or more trusted advisors outside the organization to support and/or challenge the leader’s thinking, and here’s why:

Leadership can be lonely. Ultimately, it is the leader’s responsibility to be a good steward for the organization, and sooner or later that will entail making hard decisions. Regardless of the amount of input you may receive, the point of decision — or at least making the case for the best path forward — lies with the leader. Getting an impartial perspective from someone who won’t be directly affected by the decision can help provide that extra nudge or bit of clarity a leader needs to make the best decision for the organization.

Leadership comes with a host of expectations. And it should. However, being “on” and “professional” at all times can take a toll. Leaders need a safe space to vent, and on some days maybe even get a bit snarky. They need the kind of friend who perhaps knew you long before you had the title of leader, or is willing to overlook your role and instead see the whole person, quirks and all. They know how to help you recharge  . . . by giving you space, laughing with you, being totally unimpressed by you, whatever the case may be . . . so you can bring your best self to your leadership role.

Leadership is hard. The challenges from day-to-day, week-to-week, can loom large. A trusted friend can help provide context. You are more than the result of a single challenge or decision, however sometimes that is hard to remember that when you are in the midst of the battle. That’s your passion and commitment to the organization speaking, and that’s a good thing. So is having someone who can help you step back to see the bigger picture, either by cheering you on, or telling you to end the pity party.

Leadership is not a solo act. It takes a great team inside the organization, and one or more trusted advisors outside the organization. I think I’ll leave it at that . . . I have a friend to meet.

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