27 Jul Whom can great leaders lean on?
“The mountain is only as solid as its foundation”
We know that the vast majority of leaders in today’s economy are “alpha”-personalities. They appear self-assured, they take charge, they make decisions, they step up, they delegate, they manage, and they solve problems and lead.
It is easy to spot them:
- they are often the ones who can’t stop thinking about work or business
- they tend to sit on committees and boards outside of their specific job
- they are constantly busy and engaged in matters that may not just be relevant to where they are at the moment (i.e. sending emails during dinner)
- they are strapped to devices that allow others to connect with them and vice versa
- they have a lot of demands to juggle- personal and professional
- they are always tight on time and struggle to get decent rest
- they have a difficult time unwinding
- relationships and parenting are challenges
Your grand efforts are not often appreciated enough. Every great leader I personally know or have professionally coached has struggled with managing all the demands and feeling that they are good enough in all the areas they dedicate their energy to. It is easy to hear yourself say that you are only working this hard so that your family can live a better life. I have heard others say that they are doing it for the betterment of society. Yet, others work as hard as they do to prove to themselves or others that they are good enough; success in business is equated to the quality of the person they are.
When all is quiet and there is a minute to be open, vulnerable and honest, I hear about the loneliness of leadership, the struggles of being more than one thing. I hear about the challenge of finding people to be honest and open with as most have expectations of our great leaders based on their own biases. There is never enough time, it is tough to be oneself, they feel as though they have to be “on” all the time, and then there is the tiredness. The fatigue is a rough one, because great leaders have seemingly endless tanks of energy – after all, they do so much. Truth is, they are human and, although high-functioning, effective and efficient, also need down time that is difficult to come by. Where can leaders be themselves?
When I work with exceptional leaders, we quickly talk about the real struggles that they are reluctant to talk about openly in other areas of their lives. Relationships can be challenging since alphas rarely connect with other alphas in deep and emotionally open relationships. In those rare cases, both are so busy and have to deal with such high demands of their time that the relationship is often the last item on the to-do list. When alphas connect with non-alphas, conflict brews in the absence of a genuine ability to be vulnerable with each other. This depends on the level of trust. “Will you still love me for who I am if I am not as great as I believe you need me to be?” The non-alpha tends to lament that the alpha is rarely physically or emotionally present while the alpha may not feel supported enough.
Leaders often struggle with vulnerability and it makes sense. It is NOT a short-coming, but a protective part of a socially hazardous position. If our leaders showed how vulnerable they are at all times, people would sadly not only judge them but also have less faith in their abilities. In this current social, economic and political climate, it is hard to be real. As a female leader, it is even more challenging as society seems to not want women to appear too strong (assertive) or too “emotional” (vulnerable). Both are great strengths, but gender biases and stereotypes get in the way.
Here are a few guidelines from some amazing leaders for a more connected life:
- make sure that your life matches your priorities
- ensure that you can be yourself at home
- empower others around you to take on roles of leadership
- you do NOT always have to step up if there is a need for someone to step up
- rest is the foundation of effective work
- worry is your enemy, not the driving force that helps you to excel
- it is important to take time out and be grateful for all the little and big things
- being humble does not downplay what you bring to the table, it keeps you grounded
- show kindness to people –especially those who allow you to do what you do
- you are not “The Savior” – the world will continue with or without you
- give your heart a stage in your life – others’ judgment need not be a boundary
Like in business, it is important to create and invest in solid partnerships in our personal life. That does not come from a logistical discussion or negotiation. Instead, it comes from an honest and open conversation about who we want to be and how that may play out in the different areas of our lives. The other option is to contend with constant and guaranteed drama, conflict, resentment, and stress. The choice seems to be an obvious one…
This process can benefit from support. Communication is rarely straightforward. Even figuring out who we truly are and how that may affect our life in real-time is a process. I am so grateful to be able to support leaders of industry with a place (in person or online) that is safe and helpful. It is amazing to hear the relief in their voices when they realize that there are specific skills to be able to take the pressure off and to live a more engaged life. There is great relief in having stronger relationships. There is great relief in gaining more breathing space. There is great relief in finding the air to focus on the things that are most important to you.
Being able to lean on someone who understands your unique challenges, provides you space to not always have to make decisions, but to actually receive support can take a load off. It transforms not only individual lives, but also relationships and families. Think about who you want to be to yourself and those who matter the most to you. Once you decide that you prefer a less challenging version of your life, you can consider the benefits of a coach for leaders.
If you are interested in my coaching services for leaders, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Leadership Development Specialist
Geoff Ayi-Bonte MA RCC