Being lonely at the top means you’re doing it wrong

Several times in my professional career I’ve heard peers state that it’s lonely being at the top of the organizational pyramid. My response is always the same: then you’re doing it wrong.

A leader (or manager) should never be lonely at the top of any organization so long as you’re NOT the only person in said organization. An effective leader should be consistently surrounded with human beings bearing ideas, suggestions, questions and opportunities to mentor. If this isn’t the case, the leader has likely created an atmosphere of indifference, apathy and stagnation. Is this scenario fixable? Absolutely. But first, a leader/manager must know what their role is within the organization and how to best utilize his or her strengths and weaknesses to get the job done.

For point of reference, let’s consider a manager as someone who oversees a process (and people) to completion and a leader as someone who utilizes the talents and motivations of a group to complete (or exceed) the requirements of a process. A manager manages the status quo as a priority and a leader uses the required standard as a starting line and learning process for the organization. For any of this to functionally happen, the organization needs the inherent buy-in from its team members (employees). How does a leader get this necessary buy-in? By creating an atmosphere where communication and trust is the priority. And by communication, I don’t mean relying solely on e-mail to convey messages and information.

A leader gets out from behind the desk and actually engages with the people or at a minimum, picks up a phone and has a conversation. Never underestimate the power and positive outcome to be had from face-to-face contact. Team members need to know to some degree that the boss is available, personable and ready to listen. All of the best ideas and vision statements that populate PowerPoint slides mean very little if the team feels as if they cannot engage the boss. A leader who spends all day talking with his boss and polishing said PowerPoint slides will surely miss the practical ideas, applications and lessons-learned garnered from being a conduit and beacon of team member communication.

Leadership is only lonely if you let the process, status quo and your own personal inhibitions, make it so.

About jeffclapperproject

I am a proud veteran and I come from a family of proud veterans. I’ve served with some of the best people on this planet and have been fortunate enough to lead a few of them in peacetime and war. Much like a very select few, I’ve truly seen the absolute best and worst of humanity. I am a communicator, a broadcast journalist, videographer and public relations professional by trade, a father, husband and proud American by choice. I’ve done okay by my professions over the last 20 years, won a few awards and made some great products, but my real passion is leading, mentoring and educating people. It’s an awesome responsibility and challenge to be charged with building successful teams, molding talent and motivating people to become part of something greater than them. But I love it. I truly enjoy it--the good, the bad, and a chance to see someone you’ve led and mentored succeed. I was taught very early on in my military career to take care of your people, equip them to flourish, mentor and train them to ultimately replace you. I was also taught by a series of awesome mentors that there is a distinct difference between a manager and a leader. Both are necessary, but only one develops a person for the future. I’ve learned a thing or two over the past two decades, and having built, led, trained and mentored teams of two to 650 people, I feel qualified enough to offer advice, commentary and counsel on leadership, team building and the ability to grow people as individuals and professionals. I hope you will benefit from and enjoy what I have to share. Cheers, Jeff Clapper
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