Welcome to the ninth installment of the 10 Things You Do Not Know About Leadership. In this weekly, series I cover topics that tend to be overlooked, forgotten, or completely misunderstood. By sharing with you, it is my hope and belief that I help in eradicating many of the misconceptions that come with leadership.
#9 Leadership is Lonely
Even the most popular of all great leaders were some of the loneliest people ever. To the outsiders it might seem like a popularity contest but only those in it to look good or go through the motions may be popular but most will never become GREAT LEADERS.
Greatness comes at a price. A price far too many are not prepared to pay.
As the song LIMELIGHT by RUSH (click here to view video on YouTube) goes “Cast in this unlikely role, Ill-equipped to act with insufficient tact. One must put up barriers to keep oneself intact.”
It can be difficult to always be in the limelight.
Those barriers the song refers to are there to protect the leader and strict adherence in order keep the sanity of all involved in check. Ensuring separation between the personal and professional lives is also maintained.
As maintaining separation can tag you as someone that is not understood, as you never imitate others. As you are not mimicking others because you prefer to blaze your own trail a s opposed to following someone who is also following someone else. Where’s the fun in that? Blaze your own trail, cut your own path, be the point man and get out there.
Again, when it comes to blazing your own trail, cutting your own path, being the point man, you are out in front. There is no one else in front of you. Remember, if there was someone in front of you then you are NOT leading but instead following.
Remember when it comes to leadership being lonely, comes from not being easily understood. People that are not ready to lead or be led will find those that are ready to lead or are already leading others a bit difficult to understand and follow.
Leaders, current and future, please keep in mind that their inability to understand you is not your fault, that is on them. But, know that you are going to have your work cut out for your and that is to be expected because as a leader’s job is never done.
Let me break it down. You work for an organization and there is a new manager coming on board of course, anyone new will bring their own ideas and concepts to the new job. As expected, those that have been with the company a while, usually are a hesitant to change. Thus, their defenses are up and their “go-to” is that they cannot understand you and what you are trying to do. So, the leader gets isolated. While it is not a good thing when it happens, it happens nonetheless.
Because you are unique & you never imitate others will find it difficult to associate you with someone or something familiar to them.
Leaders are a different breed of individuals; they are not afraid to be alone when it comes to leading. They understand that while the mission must be accomplished and goals must be set, they also know that nothing should get in the way of doing what must be done.
Therefore, when leaders are doing their thing, others will find it different and will tend to give those leaders the space and time whether they need it or not. However, the difference is what will lead to the leader’s isolation whether imposed by others or self-imposed by the leader.
Another sad reality is that while people will come to you for advice, arbitration, problem solving, or as a sounding board they seldom include you.
While they recognize you as an authority figure, as a subject matter expert they do so at a level that makes them think twice about including you in their social situations, gatherings, and other such events that are outside of the organization.
That’s alright. As a Leader, you should never put yourself in a position where you can take from the people you are leading. This means never letting your followers get into any situation where they owe you.
As a leader, they have to look to you without any hesitation or reservation. You are the first person they turn to in times of trouble, crisis or concern.
Yet, when a leader crosses the very fine line that separates leaders from followers then all the confidence and support for that leader goes out the window. I have seen many leaders become bad managers when they crossed that line only to find themselves with more “friends” than actual followers.
It is for that reason, that all the great leaders have to keep a tight rein on what influences them and also who they can and cannot influence. In an age where have hundreds and thousands of followers is all the rage, but how much direct impact do leaders have on those in that circle of concern?
To be honest, little to none. So, those things that impact our lives are much smaller than the circle of SOCIAL INFLUENCE.
The things that impact our lives and the lives of others are in the circle of concern and that circle is small and intentionally kept small.
You do a good job of separating yourself from those you lead. My circle of concern is what impacts me the most and that circle is so very small. That circle of concern includes 12 people. My wife, my children, my mother, my brothers, and my in-laws, plus two of the greatest friends I have. Two of the longest lasting friendships I have ever had and that has lasted over 35 years. Yes, just two friends. Two Army buddies.
Everyone else sits somewhere inside that shrinking and ever fading circle of influence. Because, leaders want to lead others, especially in the good times and of course, in the bad times. Any leader worth their salt will ensure that the separation between influence and concern stays in place.
Ensure that fine line is not only visible but reinforced and reminded constantly and consistently both on and off duty. Ensure that you do give a little but do not overdo it, enjoy a little recreation time with them but do not let it get out of hand.
For example, once a quarter go out with the team where the first round is on you and then leave. Once a year, have a holiday gathering but then leave. Being a leader is a lonely position but sharing a laugh, a pint, or breaking bread outside of the office makes it bearable and of course helps set the boundaries.
Always remember and never forget that because you chose to lead them and they made you their leader then give them the respect they deserve even if it means there will be times that you are lonely but also remember, with followers you are never alone.
Until Next Week, I Thank you.
David Guerra, MBA