I was on a zoom call this morning with a group of execs from across the country who lead organizations similar to my own. The purpose of the meeting was simply to share ideas and discuss how each of us were tackling common industry challenges. I find such conversations a great way to connect and get out of my own bubble of possible solutions, and invariably come away with two or three new ideas or different perspectives to consider. As much as I value this group of leaders, however, they are only one facet of the tribe of people I need to surround myself with if I would hope to be a well-balanced leader.
Who else do I consider essential in the motley crew who are part of my tribe?
People who have known me forever.
They knew me long before my title (which they really aren’t all that impressed with anyway). They keep me grounded in the values I was raised with . . . the things that helped shape the leader I am today. They remind me of the many times I didn’t have it all figured out, which somehow helps me figure out what I need to do today.
People who will call me on my stuff.
As you move up through the organizational chart, the number of people who will point out when you are getting in your own way often dwindles, or fades away entirely. You need these people in your life. I’m not talking about the perennial cynic who has a critique for every move you make. I mean those individuals who care about you and the organization enough to point out your blind spots and missteps (and yes, you will have and make both).
People who share my values.
I always want my faith and strong sense of values to shape my decisions. I need people who share those guiding principles as a litmus test against my own thinking. Sometimes we can get so busy trying to expediently make a decision that, without even realizing it, we can veer toward the slippery slope of putting our values on the back burner — just this one time — to reach an important goal. No goal is that important, and it can be helpful to have someone who will remind you of that.
People who stretch my thinking.
I also need to intentionally connect with people whose perspectives differ from my own. Leadership provides enough of an echo chamber of people ready to reinforce your thinking. I also need to consider what I might be missing. How might someone else (the “them” in most melodramas) see or experience the situation differently? Such perspectives may be challenging to consider, but usually result in a better, more well-balanced solution.
People who make me laugh.
Oh, how we need more laughter! You can take your job seriously without taking yourself seriously, and sometimes an hour of laughing so hard your stomach hurts is just what you need. Fun is totally under-rated in our “do more with less, and I need it right now” culture. And it is amazing how often stepping away from the challenge at hand makes the solution so much clearer.
And one more thing . . . too often we think we need to find all these qualities in a single person. But that’s the great thing about a tribe — it is made up of multiple people, each of whom serves an important purpose in your leadership journey. Who’s in your tribe?