In the past 3-4 weeks, I met some top management executives and 2 CEOs. We were discussing about innovation, culture, mindset and some latest technology stuffs. In one company they wanted to increase innovation competency, in the other they are looking for young genuine leaders to drive new digital initiatives and the next company is looking to hire innovation managers to administer their innovation projects.
What I found in common from these leaders & business managers, they have shared vision that sounds like this “I am looking for some talents that are different from me but almost all of them becoming just like me.” I responded by saying that is a good reflection and they are in the power that are able to change it.
Interestingly, they replied to me, “Khairul, it is very lonely at the top.” I drove back to my office several times in recent weeks getting the same replies (can you imagine that??), “It is very lonely at the top.”
Guess what, it doesn’t have to be. The modern organization is active, progressive and forward looking. How is it possible to be lonely? Leaders will only feel lonely when they isolate themselves in higher office, corner rooms and closed doors. It is very disturbing to me when leaders say “it is very lonely at the top” because it doesn’t have to be! Period.
And these leaders are managing multi-million dollars business, where thousands of people working for them, yet they feel “lonely”? Something isn’t right. Most of the time I found these “lonely” leaders create those disadvantages themselves.
Here some advice to get back on track. The timeless piece from Dave Packard, the founder of HP shared his 11 Simple Rules. It was delivered by Dave in 1958, 20 years after HP’s founding which was in 1938.
- Think first of the other fellow >> This is akin to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try looking from his / her perspective. Try to put yourself in their situation.
- Reinforce the other person’s feeling of importance >> Everybody loves to feel important. If you are already a leader, it is your job to make your team’s needs more important than your own need.
- Respect the other person’s personality right >> We were born different. Our personality doesn’t justify our intelligence. As leaders, we need to be open and appreciate someone’s individuality.
- Give sincere recognition & appreciation >> I found this lacking among top leaders. They don’t sweet talk anymore once they hold the big office. Give pat on the back even to the lowest staff rank. You will go miles.
- Eliminate anything negative >> Put it this way, negative sucks energy in no time. Positivity gives energy after some time. Train your mind to offer more positive thoughts.
- Avoid to openly change or told-off people >> No one likes the idea of being changed or told-off. As leaders, you should help the person to set goals and offer guidance. Let the team runs it. Of course they will take time initially, eventually they will succeed.
- Try to understand the other person >> Consider viewpoints of others around you. Particularly those whom report to you directly. Avoid making hasty decisions and overly-exercised your executive power.
- Check your first impressions >> Yes, first impression counts and it should be kept in check all the time. This is a useful reminder if you don’t like certain things emotionally although you can pin-point what is it actually. It may been related to your first impression that lasted years!
- Small details? Take care of it >> The details are the one that make the difference. Leaders need to appreciate finesse in their tone of voice, the way they walk, their smile, choice of words etc..It is simple because as leaders you are a role model and people are looking at you; all the time.
- Be sincerely interested in people >> If you think you are not good at it, go take some classes. You can fake it temporarily, and it will eat you inside. Hence it is best for you to learn to authentically be interested in people. Leaders, open your heart, head and hands.
- Practice practice practice >> I like the advise from Dr John Medina, he says ‘Repeat to remember’ and ‘Remember to repeat’. This is the path to mastery.
If you as Leaders, sincerely practice all these and sincerely its values; it is very unlikely you become lonely at the top. I personally know several senior leaders who live and breathe these 11 rules, and they are loved by their comrades and colleagues.
It shouldn’t be lonely at the top. It doesn’t have to be.
Khairul believes that getting along with people is super important these days for modern leaders. Yet, it is the hardest thing to do especially once leaders occupied the big office.
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