If you are the CEO of a small startup company, when things are bad and slow, who will motivate you? Would the team do that? The same question applies to executive leaders in a company.
The job of the leader is to keep the team’s spirit up. And the leader cannot expect the team to help when the leader is down himself or herself.
Usually, it could be the case that you are the most skilled and passionate and thus you became the leader. You could easily leave the rest in the team in the dust with your passion and associated effectiveness. But once you leave them behind, you are no longer part of the team. Great leaders learn the art of how to take the team along with them.
Take a game of soccer. You could be the most skilled master striker. But what would happen if the rest of the team have trouble moving along with you, do not collaborate and do not synchronise? You will have trouble scoring goals. This scenario is a good analogy for a team under an executive or a startup CEO. You want to go all out and achieve your goals, but the team is not pushing along as much as you want.
The solution is practicing the team pull. Sometimes, in your pursuit of excellence, blinding passion, you miss to notice that some in the team are not on board. And some would not even have the same skills and understanding as you do. It takes investment of time and effort to discuss the shared focus and value set. Then it also takes time and effort to help them drill down what they need to do to help them reach goals. It is your job to deal with the fuzziness and not pass that to the team below.
Many people falter and slow down when they see fuzziness. While creativity and curiosity can help clear the haze, leaders are the most skilled at this. Hence, the leader should be the clearing agent for fuzziness.
Now, if that is the case, then how can you seek help for your own problems. This is where you need mentors. Every great leader needs at least one mentor with somewhat higher skillset in the domain they need help. If not greater, at least discuss the issues with like-minded and intellectually inspiring peers who will help you see light on your own. In other words, it is not advice you need when you are a good leader. You need insights. Reading books and articles alone cannot get to this level of insight. You need someone who have experience who you can talk openly with.
The mentor also ideally needs to be a one who could challenge your ideas, then listen to you and finally help clear the path. The problem with the team is they might fight you, but they hardly challenge you. Challenge, cross check, sanity check of ideas though a peer or a mentor is crucial for path correction. After all, how do you know that you are all right all the time? Well, you got to trust your gut but at the same time you got to ensure your gut leads to the goals in a better trajectory. This is where you need inspiration and insights time to time.
A common pitfall is, instead of a mentor, we look for a trusted partner and then we want the trusted partner to push towards the goals the same way you would do. Unless you can carbon copy yourself and make that copy a trusted partner, this model is not going to work. And we all know that creating a carbon copy is impossible. Expecting the trusted partner to help and manage execution is not going to work. For execution, you need to build execution capacity. And that is probably a hire rather than a partner.
For effective execution, you need master builders. The leader is the architect who has the vison and design the strategy. You need master builders who can follow the design blueprint and build your vision while you keep envisioning the future strategy and business design. Mentors sharpen your vision, partners tap you on the shoulder, master builders help you get the job done!