There’s a moment in the popular 1995 movie Braveheart where William Wallace is running across a mountain range in Scotland. Everyone is counting on him, but he’s all by himself as he travels through the cold rain and wind.
As a leader, have you ever felt that way? Have you ever had the sensation of standing alone in the cold as things grow progressively more difficult? Leadership can be an isolating experience, especially during challenging times. You cannot expect people to come to your rescue — rather you’re the one who needs to save the day.
A Specific Kind of Relationship
“Nothing liberates our greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve.” — Marianne Williamson, author
Building relationships is a fundamental leadership skill. However, you must remember why you’re investing in those relationships. It’s to better support your team members in their daily tasks, to help them accomplish their greatest potential, and for the overall success of your organization and team. You should not invest in relationships in order to receive support from your team members.
With time and commitment, communal trust and loyalty can grow. But, support should still flow from you to your team. Embrace the idea that you will feel isolated at times, then go one step further to ensure none of your team members experience that same sense of isolation.
What It Looks Like in Practice
“You can raise your potential when you help someone to reach their potential.”— Amit Ray, author and spiritual master
Say that someone in your organization passes away. It can be a horrible and shocking experience when this happens. You might feel every bit as much grief as the people on your team, and you might struggle with the loss.
But, your organization needs you to stand up and take charge. You have to be the one to offer support, to speak publicly, and to organize any responses or events. You have to be able to keep going, no matter how distraught you feel. It’s simply part of the role.
A Journey Toward Growth
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”— Helen Keller
Leadership isn’t easy. There will often be situations and challenges you’d prefer to avoid. But, if it feels like there’s something in particular you want to circumvent, that’s frequently a sign that you need to turn around and face it. By facing the isolation that comes with leadership, your skills and knowledge will only grow.
This isn’t to say that support will flow in one direction 100% of the time. Occasionally, something wonderful can occur. An empathetic team member might step up and offer you words of encouragement or gratitude, without any strings attached. They might back you up, in a moment when they have nothing to gain. When this occurs, it’s a bonus, but it’s not something you can count on.
You also need a trusted advisory group, filled with wise people to whom you can turn for guidance and support. This is key to ensuring you aren’t completely isolated and depleted! Knowing you can turn to your group for help makes it easier to give to your team members without thought of reciprocation.
In the end, you can’t expect to be appreciated, or given adulation. Your reward lies in the amazing things you accomplish alongside your team and the specific ways you can make life better for others.
Achieve consistent victories over time, despite challenging circumstances. Learn how in our eBook.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.