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Leadership is Lonely

I recently read Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby a quite popular CEO in the United States. The book seeks to challenge leaders to allow integrity and faith to guide their decisions by outlining seven principles that break down the natural walls within corporate cultures, empowering managers and employees, disarming difficulties, and cultivating an atmosphere that builds long-term success. The book is not perfect, but its got many gems like this one :
Leadership is a lonely business. When we rely only on our own perspective, we miss our blind spots. We do the best we can, but if we have nobody telling us the real truth, we will not improve over time. The unfortunate news is that the more senior you are in your organization, the more difficult it is to get the truth about how you’re performing. Finding someone you can trust to give you honest feedback is a rare gift that all leaders need but few receive. You will have to find these companions on your own. Your trusted confidants may come from your organization or from your personal life; either way, the undeniable fact is they need to tell you the truth about who you are and where you need to grow. They need to confront you when you are wrong and watch for patterns of poor behavior and negative patterns in your decision making. Preferably, these “truth tellers” are not impacted by your decisions, so you can be assured there is no ulterior motive.
In short the higher up we go up in taking on leadership responsibilities the more we need to develop a spirit of vulnerability with others. We need to be increasingly accountable and open to people who will honestly challenge us. And this vulnerability must be a deliberate act of the leader to make himself accountable to others. Bob Briner makes the same point in his book the Leadership Lessons of Jesus :  
More leadership has failed from a lack of intimacy than from any other cause. Leaders, no matter how brilliant, cut their tenures short or accomplish less than they might otherwise when they fail to establish close relationships with a few key people, a core of their followers. I have been in situations where followers, including myself, sought a closer relationship with a leader—not for personal gain, but for his sake and for the sake of the enterprise—only to be rebuffed. Every time a leader tries to go it alone, something less than the best occurs.
These are insightful observations. Many leaders clearly find it difficult to be vulnerable with others for two possible reasons.  The first reason is the "big man" syndrome that we so often see in African political leadership. The leader feels that he towers above everyone - sort of like the village chief. It is almost as if being vulnerable means a reduction in that assumed status. This sort of attitude develops when a person views themselves through the prism of their position rather than through the eyes of God. We become the position rather than regarding the self as distinct from that position.  As an undergraduate I read Colin Powell's biography A Soldier's Way. I don't quite remember much from it except that it was great! Particularly because I always remembered this important piece of advice : “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it”. And he did not just mean a leadership position!

The second reason is what I call the challenge of inadequacy. When we feel that we are not quite up to our responsibilities, the natural reaction is to close ourselves from being more intimate with others. We don't want to tell them we are struggling with sin because we feel our world will crumble and everyone will look down on us. The antidote for that is to recognise that true adequacy is only found in God. If we have repented and come to faith in Jesus Christ we will be more open about our weaknesses and our leadership will grow! And the sign that we are increasingly find our adequacy in Jesus is that we will be in deeper accountable relationships as assume greater responsibility. 
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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