Does Leadership Have to Be So Lonely?

We’ve all heard that it’s lonely at the top, but does it have to be?

I would posit that it does not.

When you are a leader, there is a certain amount of gravitational pull toward loneliness. You’re often privy to inside information, and it’s hard to know whom to trust. Sometimes you are even geographically separated. The corner office is a real thing, and it isn’t accessible without going through a gatekeeper who assures that only the right people get through.

Then, you add to that the truth that most people who want to meet with you want something. If you are the decision-maker and your word and approval can make things happen, then you are always being sought after, even chased.

Do you see how it happens?

All of these things and more, like gravity, pull us toward seclusion. It’s easier to.

And yes, there are times when solitude is necessary. We all need alone time to think and ponder. But too much time alone is usually unhealthy.

The great king Solomon – supposedly the wisest man who ever lived and a remarkable businessman to boot – said: “in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” He was entirely right about that. So, how do you find your multitude of counselors?

First, you need to understand that the fix is not just going to happen. You’ll need to be proactive about it. Cultivating trusting relationships with people who have only one agenda-our best interest- is not easy. When you are in charge, there are many people who are happy to tickle your ears with what you want to hear. But real and effective counselors are different. They tell us what we need to hear. These people are invaluable. They know where the land mines are buried and can help lead you safely around them. Everybody needs a multitude of honest counselors around them.

So why don’t more people have them? Pride and fear.
It’s hard for leaders to be humble and be transparent enough to let somebody speak truth into your life, even if that truth will set you free and keep you from the big mistakes that can bring you down.

Leadership can be deceptive and dangerous because people are always telling us how great you are, and pretty soon you start believing it. When that happens, you stop seeking out advice and counsel. Don’t let that happen. Don’t believe your own press. Be honest with yourself about your blind spots and issues. Be humble and ask advice from people you trust. We can tell you from firsthand experience that this kind of unvarnished truth will be invaluable to sustaining long-term success both for you and the organization you lead.

With all of this in mind, admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room. Find other smart people and let them run. Killing yourself with 80-hour workweeks is crazy. Don’t feel like you have to outwork everybody and prove anything. Do what you do best. Let others do what they do best. Handing off work to others that you trust will give you time to seek out wisdom and apply it so you can be your best every day.

To help other business people like us, we have launched an organization in Kansas City called Acumen. It is built for CEO’s and owners of growing companies. It is designed for leaders with vision who want to have an impact on the world. We meet, talk, and learn together.

There are organizations like Acumen in your area. Find one and get in it. Be committed to it. Get to know the people there. Really get to know them. And, let them know you. Some of your multitude of counselors are in there, we guarantee you. If you look, you’ll find them.

You got into leadership and launched your company to make money, but in your heart, you know that it’s about more than that. Great leadership changes the world for those you lead, your customers and their families. It’s a big job with lots of responsibility. But it’s doable with the right people around you and the willingness to connect and interact with honesty and transparency.

Dan Cooper and Drew Hiss are the authors of a new book, Sharpen: A Guidebook for Business Ownership and Adventures in Leadership.

They are also the founders of Acumen, a Kansas City area organization that exists to give business leaders and owners a safe place to discuss their issues and find answers.

Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books–written by men–barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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