Where Does a Leader Turn for Help?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO
Leaders need more help than ever. What they are responsible for continues to grow as the environment shifts faster than ever. Competitors come from entirely different sectors – and continents. Technologies are introduced in an exponential manner. I see many leaders dazed by all of this. How can they keep up? How do they lead? How do they get the help they need to be great at what they do? Where can they find the help they need? Everywhere. The help they need is all around them.
As a senior leader for the past 20 years, I have struggled with getting the answers to my questions. I was trained to believe that the best leaders had the answers. They had years of experience and were prepared for their leadership roles. Not knowing the answer could be seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence. In a slow-moving world where tomorrow pretty much looks like today, it is possible to use past experiences to have good answers. In today’s face-paced and ever-changing world, it is no longer possible to know the answers. Us leaders need to be better at asking questions and getting the answers to the questions from everything and everyone who is willing to help us. We need to admit easily and candidly when we do not know the answer to the complex questions in our business. As one great leader once said “Ask – and you will receive. Seek and you will find.”
This has been a tough lesson for me to learn. I have always wanted to be competent and “know the answer.” However, I only know some of the answers – and others have the rest. But, if I have to “have the answer,” I deny the great contributions of others in my life. That makes no sense. In fact, it is downright dangerous to our organizations.
Recently, I was asked to help a friend and colleague. She asked me to help her grow her business. I immediately offered her my advice – get a very good executive coach and mentors. No one person could best help her. I then recommended she get a millennial mentor. Why? Because Millennials are the now generation – not the future generation. In two years, they will be 65% of the workers and customers. Only turning to those with more experience than you is dangerous in today’s economy. A person needs good insights from everyone they can trust. Everyone!
Over the last five years, I have learned that I need to humbly admit I am constantly searching for better answers to the most difficult questions. I am more vulnerable and open than I have ever been to the insights and learnings of others from all walks of life. Better questions, quicker learning, more in-depth connections with others, and constant experimentation are the key to leaders that are excelling today.
So, where and to whom do you turn for help? Are you willing to ask for it – continuously? When you ask, who steps forward to help you? Would they make good mentors and friends? What is your intentional strategy for getting the help you need? It is one of the most important questions you will ask yourself on your way to becoming a successful leader.