Leadership is Lonely…If You’re Doing it Wrong

I was once told that “leadership is lonely”. The decisions that have to be made and the process you go through as a leader to make those decisions, can make you feel like you’re all by yourself. That feeling of responsibility and accountability can make even the toughest leader feel lonely.

There are so many books, articles, studies, and other variations of how to be a leader. Everyone seems to have their own view and opinion on what has worked for them. Personally, I think it’s a more dynamic process because what worked in one environment might not work in the next. There are leadership fundamentals for sure, but a good leader assesses the situation and determines what they have in their arsenal in order to fulfill the vision/mission/goals of the organization they are leading.

Leadership by Committee

What I have found that doesn’t work in most situations is a consensus type of leadership. If someone decides they need to move in a certain direction for the sake of the company, and that decision depends on everyone else agreeing, then why have the person making the “decision”? Form a committee and give them responsibilities, and they can be the leadership. You don’t really have a “leader” if a group has to agree before moving forward with a plan of action.

Take the Shots

In the earlier days of my career, I was taught you had to have managerial “courage.” I quote “courage” because I believe true courage is something different. This type of courage means to not be afraid to make a decision, take the shots for that decision, and correct the course if needed. You can’t be afraid to change the team if you aren’t achieving the results you need. I was once part of a team where the boss was relieved of his duties and someone told me, “Sometimes when the team isn’t performing, you either have to change the team and or change the coach. I chose to change the coach.”

There are tough calls to make.  And we all have to make them.  The same person that told me leadership is lonely, also told me “the one that calls the shots, takes the shots”.  That is NOT a sports reference. After ideating with the best and brightest in your company, you have to make the call that you believe in for the business.  And you better believe in it.  There is no blaming anyone else for a decision if you are the one to make the call.

You called the shot.

I believe that my team seeing me take the shots, and potentially buffering them from those consequences, sets an example of ownership and servanthood.  And my hope is they model this as they grow.

Communication is Everything

I’m a big believer in communication with my team.  I find the things that work best for me are getting out from behind my desk and sitting down and talking to them where THEY are.  We have tried to create an environment in our office where any place is a great place to sit down for a chat.  We have a creative space with couches and chairs where we host most of our “sit down” meetings. By getting out to THEIR space, I also get a chance to listen to what’s going on with them personally and professionally.  While the door to my office is always open, I believe the best listening comes from where they are.

I also use email to communicate strategies and other directions they need to be aware of.  While I don’t believe in consensus decisions, I do respect members of my team enough to bounce ideas off of them, ideate, before I get to a decision making process.  This is where I listen.

Love Your Team

As a leader, you need to have a strong team, ensure they are in tune with the goals and provide them with the tools and leadership they need. True leadership, to me, is also knowing YOUR limitations. When do you get out of the way?

Can leadership be lonely? You’re damn right it can be. Can it NOT be lonely? Hell, yes. If you truly love your team, inform them of the direction you are going, listen to them, and make the tough calls, they will charge through burning buildings to exceed your wildest expectations. And that is beyond fulfilling.

I love building teams that do imaginative and innovative things. And I’m honored to be doing that today.

Thanks, Team Orion. You keep me from being lonely.

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