Are you a Lonely Leader?
The struggles of a lonely leader are widely acknowledged giving prominence to the widespread idiom, “It’s lonely at the top.”
Are loneliness and isolation conditions that you must bear if you are leading?
Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of CEOs where they found that over 50% of CEOs feel lonely in their role. 61% believe that this isolation hinders their performance in their role.
The authority and responsibility of leading in a business, church, educational institution, or non-profit all hold specific stressors. This can compound a leader’s feelings of separation both inside and outside the team and organization.
Jesus knew well the feelings of isolation and loneliness in his life and ministry. The stress, demands, and feelings of overwhelm were prevalent as Jesus taught, healed, comforted, and fed the multitudes. The exhaustion is often evident as the gospel writer Mark records that “… Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples, and a large multitude from Galilee followed, and also from Judea” (Mark 3:7).
The demands in a leadership role are exceptionally challenging no matter the team or organization you serve. Knowing your boundaries but also how to engage your team is crucial.
Lonely from the top
Are you able to effectively lead if you do so from a place of isolation? There was a time that I was the lonely guy at the top of the organization. One of the ways that I learned how to navigate and correct this was to incorporate my team in the decision-making process. I then implemented a process utilizing three powerful questions that helped me lead by tapping the potential of my team.
While it can often be necessary to make an executive decision based on situations that arise. This can spill over into other situations where it might be better for your organization and teams to incorporate others into that decision-making process. . Additionally, we all have blind spots, and our perspectives are at times limited. When we are able to invite others into that process, it cultivates an environment where people feel trusted and valued. It also helps us as leaders connect with our teams and what is happening at all levels of our organization, ministry, etc.
Jesus exemplified an understanding that leading is not contained within a vacuum when he sent the disciples out 2 by 2 (Luke 10:1). He knew that the healthiest way to approach the tasks of success or failure is not alone.Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Click To Tweet
I’ve mentioned before that the key to motivating folks is to start doing things with your people, not doing things to your people.
One way of doing more things with your people is by using the 1-2-3 decision-making method, a participative leadership style.
With this participatory leadership style, you can build a culture where people thrive and results soar!
Decision-Making that Impacts the Lonely Leader?
1-2-3 is a decision-making process that states: When facing a decision each of us should first ask three key questions and based on the answers, appropriately involve others in the decision-making process. The three questions are:
Who can help me make a better decision?
There is a need to evaluate and involve the right people. This first question is a pride check and will cause us as leaders to acknowledge our humanity and limitedness to see all facets of a decision.
By broadening the voices involved in any singular decision you also display an acknowledgment of your team’s ability and capacity which will build trust.
As the leader, you may have the capacity to make a good decision, but by involving your team you have the ability to make a better decision.
Who will have to carry it out?
Trouble arises when team members are given directives without all the information or worse without the ability to communicate the impact it will have on their performance or their role. This creates distance between the decision-maker and their team.
Knowing the person executing the decisions and involving them will build trust. Ultimately saving you time as they will be able to troubleshoot potential pitfalls.
Who will be impacted by it?
Decisions are not self-contained but rather have a ripple effect that can be positive or negative.
When we acknowledge that we are not islands but rather have been gifted with the authority to support our team we can work towards decisions that not only serve our team but also allow us to integrate into that very team through a trusting relationship.
How does it work?
The 1-2-3 decision-making process reminds us before beginning to think about how to address a challenge, opportunity, or decision. You should ask yourself three key questions. This method can be both effective and helpful. It helps us as leaders pause and take a breath. This enables us to take a broader look at whatever opportunity, obstacle, or conflict has occurred and analyze it appropriately. Sometimes, urgent circumstances will arise. There are times when emotions want to take the lead in this process. Therefore, when we can utilize this method, it helps us make decisions that will not only be for the best of everyone involved.
To work best, 1-2-3 decision-making requires discipline at several stages:
- Its use should be a way of life! You miss out on much of the power of this process if you only employ it when it’s convenient, or when you happen to think about it. It may take some getting used to. If you are able to implement this method regularly and intentionally, it will become second nature to you and your teams.
- As soon as the need for a decision is recognized, the 1-2-3 decision-making questions can be addressed. If not, the initiator will tend to start making preliminary judgments. Which they may feel compelled to defend when the decision-exploring team convenes.
Leadership tip: I’ve learned to not write down any preliminary thoughts before the group meets so I keep an open mind to others’ thoughts.
- Instead of meeting individually (a key mistake) with those who come to mind in answer to the 1-2-3 decision-making questions, meet with them as a group and have an open discussion of the pros and cons of the matter in question.
Please note that after all of the pros and cons have been considered, the initiator still has to make the final decision. The 1-2-3 decision-making process is not a decision by a committee.
1-2-3 Decision-Making Promotes Teamwork
Teamwork (successfully practicing Communication, Coordination, and Cooperation) is a key factor in the maintenance and enhancement of an organization’s progressive culture.
Research has shown that teamwork doesn’t come naturally (or easily) to most people or sub-groups. Our natural tendency is to be a lonely leader.
I am convinced, though, that teamwork is absolutely essential to an organization’s success. Promoting the achievement of high levels of effectiveness and efficiency. Teamwork also is what helps alleviate a leader’s feelings of isolation. Encouraging a sense of belonging from the top filtered to the whole of the organization.
Before I sold our business, we developed and incorporated the 1-2-3 decision-making process into our way of doing business. It served as a simple cue that encouraged us to work as a team.Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another, and of strength to be derived by unity. -- Vince Lombardi Click To Tweet
Pause and Reflect: Lonely Leader
- Are you a lonely leader?
- What process does your organization use to promote teamwork when facing challenges or opportunities, or making decisions?
- How could this participatory leadership style change the way you lead your organization?
Related, Articles, Videos, and Podcast Episode
- Build Your Team Through Trust
- Sustainable Service and Stewardship with John Pellowe
- Vision for the Future
- Leading Exhausted?
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