Let’s face it, leadership is hard.
You give it everything you have, but sometimes, it feels like it’s just not enough. When that happened though, here’s what you have to tell yourself…
You’re not alone.
Or, I should say…you don’t have to be.
When I was in San Francisco to deliver a keynote, I visited the famous California Redwoods. Standing beside the tallest living things on the planet was astounding.
Some them are thousands of years old. I saw the tallest tree – tall as a 36 story building with a trunk that would take ten or twelve people to encircle. Wow!
When I returned to my hotel that night, I went online to learn more about these trees. Specifically, I wanted to know about their roots. The roots I had seen were shallow and short.
What I found surprised me.
I expected the redwoods to have deep root systems, but they don’t. Their roots only go down five or six feet…but they extend outward 100 feet. In fact, the roots of nearby trees entangle, connect, and even fuse with one another. Together, the trees anchor one another through thousands of years of storms, wind, and floods.
Think about that for a moment – the tallest living things on earth don’t get tall by themselves.
They do it together.
As a leader, your trajectory and success – especially when things get tough – depend on your connections. There are three connections I’ve found that energize every great leader.
Connection #1: Your Team
Of course, you are there to serve your team.
But a funny thing happens when you do this. You will find your team also serves you. You don’t have to problem-solve on your own. You can rely on them.
Where you need to grow, they’ll challenge you. When your team trusts you, they’ll do amazing work with you. When you lead well, your team makes you stronger.
You can bring the tough questions to them and they’ll problem solve with you. They’ll hold you accountable. Karin and I have both had team members confront us when we weren’t leading up to our own standards.
Connection #2: A Community of Peers
Leadership is challenging work. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always feel good. It can be difficult, but extremely rewarding to find a good group of colleagues who will encourage you and help you problem solve. If you’re looking for this kind of leadership community, consider our International Leadership Cohort of people just like you who are committed achieving breakthrough results – without losing their soul.
In addition to mutual encouragement and problem solving, you also benefit from time spent with people outside the “bubble” of your organization. You’ll see your own situations with fresh eyes and better perspective.
Connection #3: A Mentor or Coach
Who is helping you get better?
Many leaders have a series of mentors and coaches over their lifetime…but it’s your responsibility to find them.
Recently, I saw an aspiring leader sit back on a social media forum and post something like, “Hey, I really wish you’d mentor me!” It was a generic comment that felt needy and as if he were a victim, powerless to help himself.
Most mentors won’t respond to that sort of energy. You want to find people who are farther down the road, who are doing what you want to do or have the kind of influence you want to have, and then approach them with a specific and actionable request.
You might say, “I’ve noticed you are very effective at cross-departmental relationships and problem solving. I’ve been challenged in this area and have some specific questions I think you could help with. Would you be willing to mentor me in this? You’ll find that I take your suggestions seriously and put them into practice as soon as possible.”
Accept their answer. If they say yes and have a particular way they want to work, go with it, and follow through. If they say no, honor that too. The chemistry must be there for mentoring relationships to work.
There are also times you’ll want to rely on a coach. Coaches can provide targeted, objective feedback and skill-training to shorten your learning curve and help you make rapid progress with your leadership challenges.
Remember, just like redwoods, great leaders get to be great based on the strength of their connections to their team, to a community of colleagues, and with mentors and coaches.
Where do you need to connect?
Leave us a comment and share how you stay connected to your team, a community of leaders, and mentors & coaches who help you grow.