Leaders Never Go It Alone
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO
There is a great myth in most of the leadership stories you read in the popular press. The myth is that individual leaders are the reason for the success of their companies. It just isn’t true. It is blatantly false. Do you know of any highly successful leaders without a great network? I do not know of any successful company that can point its success to a single leader – no matter how good they truly are.
To be successful as a leader you must be connected to a group of individuals who are trusted family, friends, community members, colleagues, and co-workers. It is this network that you (and other leaders) must surround yourself with that is the real story of leadership success. If this is the case, how do you create and maintain such a network?
Start with the “who.” When it comes to your network it is critical that the right people are in it. They must be trustworthy. They must care about you deeply. They must be willing to challenge you. They must have capabilities that complement your capabilities. For me, I also look for people who are gifted beyond my own capacity. Surround yourself with the best people to be the best leader you can be.
Next, examine your network “what.” What are you going to ask them to help you with? This question is very important. We all must be vulnerable enough to acknowledge that we need others to help us. Make a list of areas you want help in. It can be as generic as “help challenge my thinking” or “help me find humor.” Be honest about what you need most and work your way down your list.
Finally, you must identify your network “how.” How will you go about building this vital and incredible network that will help you be successful? My rule of thumb is give to others what you want from them. Give them your trust, care, honesty, and assistance with your capabilities. Invest in them. Then, you must ask for their assistance. Be as vulnerable as you can be. If they see you genuinely want their help – and they are inclined to help, they will. Their actions will show it. If not, you can move to others in your network. Be intentional about building this support network. It will be one of the most important things you will do as a leader.
Let me give you an example from my own life. Several times as MACNY President I needed the advice and guidance of a trusted board member. I am blessed to have a great board so it has almost always been provided. One such individual that I would turn to time and time again is Jim Beckman. He fits all the qualities I mentioned earlier. He is caring, smart, gives to others, and has great capabilities. When in need, I turned to him. When he responded, I was grateful. With each time I was vulnerable enough to ask for help – he responded. I attribute many of my successful decisions to his guidance and insight.
Now is a great time to build or maintain your leadership network. Who do you want in it? What do you need help with? How can they help you? Make a list today. Prioritize it. Reach out today to meet with them in person or by phone. Today is the best day to begin busting that age old myth of the singular leader. It never was true. Your success and mine are living proof of it.