It has long been said that it’s lonely at the top. For many years (and to some degree, even today) that’s how leadership was viewed. There the leader stood, looking down upon his domain with critical decisions to make and carry out. The entire fate; the success or failure of the endeavor or organization rested on his or her shoulders. Not only was the leader to create the vision and strategy but carrying it out also, was all part of what a strong leader needed to be able to do.
This view of leadership results only in fatigue, burnout and ultimately a frustrated workforce and a failed mission. Leaders may rise to the top, but should never get there (and certainly can’t stay there) alone. Taking the hill (whatever that hill may be for you) is a noble undertaking. The question for you as a leader is, when you get to the top and look around what do you see? Depending on how you lead, it will be one of two things: A team surrounding you, fists in the air, celebrating the victory right along with you…or a hillside of dead bodies.
You see, you can get to the top on your own, stepping over the bodies on the way (bodies by the way, that you created); or you can bring the team with you; calling on them, asking for help, banding with them and yes, allowing them to lead as well, as you journey up the hill.
There are times when a key decision lands with you, and for that moment leadership can be a lonely, even agonizing business. But even then, if you’ve enlisted your team to partner with you on the journey that led to that point, they’ll share in your agony and support your decision, even if it brings news that’s hard to hear.
Leadership should not be a lonely business. Leaders should never walk alone. Don’t just teach someone or mentor someone, bring them with you as you lead. This practice is not about succession planning (though it can include that); it’s not about empowerment (though you should always be looking to do that); it’s not even just about leadership development (though that is a critical goal). While it’s in part about all those things, it’s also and just as importantly, about you not being isolated. It’s about you rebuking the old adage; “it’s lonely at the top”…because it doesn’t have to be and frankly, never should be.
If you find yourself in a lonely position as you lead, you will not be at your best. You won’t make your best decisions regarding strategies, customers, programs, what’s best for your team. You simply won’t be at your best. Andy Stanley said; “who and what we listen to will shape us as leaders”. If we’re only listening to ourselves, then we limit our mission to only what we can see or imagine. Think of all the lost ideas and wise council that’s never heard, because we chose to take the hill alone.
The Beatles had it right when the said; “I get by with a little help from my friends”. So ask yourself as you lead, who’s voice do you hear as you consider decisions? Is it yours alone or are there the voices of others who have been walking beside you. Is it you that’s getting that done or can you smile as you look around and say; “I got by with a little help from my friends”? Oh, and if it’s the later, make sure they know it.