David Gergen said something interesting that resonated with a number of other speakers from Day 1 of The Leadership Summit:
Leadership doesn’t have to be lonely. The day of the Lone Ranger is over.
He said when leadership is more of a team thing, when you lead other leaders, when you see your job as bringing other people along, when you partner, collaborate and build things together, how could leadership be lonely? The only time leadership would get lonely would be in a choice to keep people at a distance, as Reagan apparently did.
In my experience, there are two sides to it. Yes, leadership is certainly very relational. I’m not sure it’s called leadership if people aren’t involved somewhere in the process. Don’t you need followers, for instance? But at the same time, there are things you carry that you can never share. For some, it’s personal baggage from their past, as Wess Stafford shared with us at the Summit. For others, it’s new struggles they can never share with others. I heard recently about a leader in Wycliffe whose wife had a lot of health issues and who got mugged in Africa during his tenure, and very few people ever knew about it at the time. For others, it’s confidential staff issues. I can’t imagine the burdens some of our HR leaders carry over time. With all those secrets, it feels very lonely.
So how can we develop methods to carry each others’ burdens at top levels of leadership? How can those who work with CEOs get beyond surface-level friendships? As busy as they are, CEOs need deep relationships, but they have to find a way to open up and give back in return. I’m convinced as relational a thing as leadership shouldn’t have to be lonely.