Leadership is an Inside Job

Leaders lift people up. We encourage others. We make strategic decisions. Hard decisions. Leaders direct living organizations toward destinies that impact many lives. We work to inspire the best in others. We pour into others on a regular basis. But who pours into us?

I imagine you have thought of this question more than once in your leadership career. I know I have. I have discovered the truth of leadership is that it can be a lonely proposition. I always thought the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top” was because one had to displace everyone else to get to the top, thus, alienating any friends you might have had. What I learned was leadership can be lonely because there are few who can relate to the pressures, struggles, and responsibility that rests on your shoulders as a leader. I tried to connect with other top leaders but found that many of them either didn’t want to devote time to building a friendship with me (they claimed they had no time to spare) or if they would meet with me, they wouldn’t open up very much out of fear of revealing something to the “competition,” which I really was not.

So, leadership development became an inside job for me. I devoured leadership books, audio messages, self-paced courses, and anything else I could find. I implemented what I learned with my teams in my own “leadership laboratory” and found what worked and what didn’t. But I still didn’t have that leadership group of peers I could confide in and express my triumphs as well as defeats. I was learning a lot about leadership and even teaching others about leadership but I was still lonely.

A saving grace for me was my spirituality and faith. Not everyone has this or desires this. I get it. I’m not telling you what to believe, but I found my relationship with God grew more deeply as I spent time with Him, praying and reading, and expressing my leadership frustrations in that realm. I do believe that He created us to be in community as well so I still needed the human connection for growing to the next level as a leader.

It has taken years to find, but I finally landed in a space where I feel like I belong. It’s been a long time since I felt that way. Through some existing relationships, I discovered a group of top leaders that are of the same mindset I am. We all want to grow in our leadership and see the path as walking together to realize that goal. We are all in different places in our leadership learning and development, but we all speak into each other’s lives and encourage, inspire, and challenge each other.

Maybe it’s different for you. Maybe you are a super hero of leadership and don’t require anyone else around you. Maybe you are a rock of emotional fortitude. I can respect that.

I imagine it’s still lonely.

There is power in team. Even an unofficial team of leaders who come together to share what they are learning, working on, and experiencing. There is power in releasing frustrations with a group who is safe. There is healing in releasing the negativity by speaking out loud what is challenging you. Even if you don’t need a solution from anyone. Sometimes it’s “lifting” to just get it off your chest. There is real power in being a part of a group of peers like this.

If you don’t have this in your life, find one. Start one. Do what you need to in your schedule to make time on a regular basis for it. This isn’t an option. It is a necessity for your continued leadership health and growth. Set the meeting into your schedule, block it out, and don’t let anything impede on it. This is that important.

Develop your inner circle of top leaders that will pour into you and you into them. It will be one of the best leadership decisions you will make. It will impact you and then pour out into your teams around you. It will make its way to your family and friends. You will begin to see yourself developing into the leader you were made to be.

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