In their book ‘The Accidental Leader’, authors Robbins and Finley write:
“No one leads alone. Leaders who do their jobs are continually consulting with others. They are always plugged in to other people. They use others as mentors, as peer review panels, as confidants to bounce ideas off. They schmooze, they copy, they complain. They listen, they steal. Sometimes they just turn their dials down and relax with friends. Leading is a very social function, or you’re not doing it right.”
“Why do so many new leaders feel they have to go it alone?”
Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. The western image of the independent male, making it on his own, conquering and winning with only his own wits and resources to rely upon has sadly and wrongly infiltrated the American male psyche. And it is destructive. Whether you lead a large organization, small company, a family or only yourself – another man coming alongside you to share ideas, thoughts and truths is crucial to your success. Not only is it helpful in increasing your chances for success, but it makes life more fun and interesting. It can also provide opportunities for you to pour ideas and concern into another man’s life. And isn’t that what a life well lived is all about?
So how does a leader reach out to a coach or mentor? How does a man move toward a friendship? For most, this is within 4 feet, but it sits just outside the box we call our comfort zone. So just as we tackle most projects, or how we eat an elephant (one bite at a time), we reach out, pick up the phone, send an email and ask. We give up the fear of rejection, the awkwardness we may feel and accept the certainty that the offer for a cup of coffee, a lunch date or a drink after work is probably making the other man feel the same. That is why it is called the comfort zone and why success only happens in the uncomfortable zone, on the edges, where life is hot.
I have met too many men who bemoan the fact that they don’t have friends, a lot of acquaintances but no real friends. They knows guys from work, or the club. Their wives arrange social outings with other couples and the women guide the conversations. I know men who attend the mens ministry program at their churches and temples, but never really find another man or two to really open up to. Friendships are risky and can be messy, but add a richness to life that can not be gotten any other way. Having a coach or a mentor is like adding another set of caring eyes to your life and work.
A true leader can easily list the many people who contributed to his success, knowing he could not have done it on his own. And the difference between a grumpy old man and a kindly elderly gentlemen is how many other men he can call ‘friend’.