My thanks and appreciation to the Lead Change Group for publishing this post on July 10, 2018.

An Indispensable Leadership Strength

Anxiety reared as I contemplated the crossing of a lengthy suspension bridge. This crossing, for many, may just be a mundane experience. Yet for someone who has always experienced an overwhelming fear of heights, this bridge was a daunting obstacle. An obstacle that was difficult to avoid, as I had to cross the bridge to attend my son’s wedding ceremony.

I could have chosen to bypass the bridge and taken a circular, yet time consuming route to where the ceremony was going to take place. It was the voice of a trusted individual, my dear wife Anne, who calmly advised and gently urged me to cross.

Without her intervention and considerate influence I am not sure I would have taken that initial step. So I grabbed the guide ropes on the side, looked straight ahead at her back as she walked before me, and started this protracted trek by putting one foot forward in front of the other.

On a daily basis, we all face obstacles.

Many of them are not as overwhelming as overcoming a life-long fear. When issues and concerns arise, decisions and choices are made and acted on with ease and confidence.

Much like this personal battle of confidence and fear, leaders will also be confronted with anxiety provoking and formidable impediments. Circumstances when the leader’s inaction, poor decision-making, or lack of consultation cause situations that, in some cases, end up being career-defining crucible moments.

The tendency is for many leaders to contend with these issues individually. Asking for assistance is portrayed as weakness. Leaders do not want to outwardly demonstrate fear or anxiety, even when inwardly they feel stressed and anxious. To appear brave, confident, and “in command,” they avoid asking for assistance.

Yet requesting assistance and receiving support is a leadership strength. In fact, it is an indispensable practice.

It is in these rare times when the most effective leaders activate this practice. They look to the advice and loyalty of at least one trusted confidant, or if fortunate, a trustworthy team whom the leader can confer with and rely upon for counsel and assistance.

Successful leaders intentionally and purposefully build support systems to attend to difficult situations. They adopt a team approach to solving problems, and recognize and admit that they do not have all the answers and solutions to all of the issues that need to be dealt with. They are willing to seek assistance and counsel, and don’t view this as a weakness.

In addition, these leaders intentionally recruit a team of trusted members and work diligently to develop mutual trust with them. More significantly, effective leaders appeal to and encourage open and honest input, and are not intimidated to hear alternative and/or opposing views from their confidants.

Whether leaders need to confront their personal fear of heights and walk across an intimidating suspension bridge, or face a critical career circumstance, leaders need to be personally open to the wise counsel of trusted confidants — confidants whom they can rely on to help them conquer the inevitable leadership obstacles.