The privilege of leadership is a wonderful thing. It affords opportunity to invest in the teams around you. It provides an opportunity to enhance your professional and personal image, and to bring real value to the organization or the team that you lead. That being said, there are real risks that come with the mantle of leadership. Risks that need to be acknowledged and mitigated at all costs.
Let’s consider three.
The Risk of Isolation
Many leaders face the risk of becoming isolated and insulated from the rank-and-file of their organizations. During my career, I have made a point to walk around the floors where my teams were located on a daily basis if at all possible. And I have noticed without exception, that when circumstances prohibited me from walking around for any length of time, my effectiveness and ability to influence were greatly reduced. Sometimes isolation comes from growth. A small start-up grows quickly into a larger company, and the leaders lose touch with the rank-and-file. It is critical for leaders to remain in touch and aware of their organizations.
The Risk of bad advice
While it is true that to the victor go the spoils, all real leaders know and acknowledge that their successes are attributable to large groups of people, all pulling in the same direction and for the same purpose. It is also true that the best decisions are informed by the best advice, and there are numerous examples of organizations where leaders began to be given bad advice by the wrong people. Leaders need to surround themselves with people who are willing to speak truth to power, and speak up when they feel the decisions being taken are wrong. Surrounding ourselves with people who merely tell us what they think we want to hear is as great a risk as allowing ourselves to be isolated. The risk of bad advice!
The risk of popularity
Being a populist leader is a great way to get things done. Being available and approachable creates a bond with those we work with, that can be leveraged to tremendous success. Leaders need to be careful that they don’t weigh popularity to the detriment of leading. Leaders need to be willing to lead, to make difficult decisions and tough choices. Choices that affect those with whom he or she is popular. A number of years ago I had a manager who, much as I do, promoted an open door policy. But I watched as the extent to which his open door was leveraged, led not only to a lack of productivity, but an unwillingness to address performance issues with those he had befriended. Be available and approachable, but be willing to lead and address issues when called on.
Without question the benefits and privileges that come with leadership opportunities far outweigh the risks, but the risks remain real and poised to derail any leader who fails to manage them!