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It's Lonely at The Top!

I was talking with a very successful President and CEO about some of the challenges of his position.

I think that we are all taught that one measure of success in our career is progression through the ranks. To become a supervisor, then a manager, then a senior manager and then on to an executive role.

Nobody tells you about the major hurdles you face on the journey, the fact that it will be “people issues” that eat up your days, that you will be expected to support the company direction, will need to handle issues for which you have had minimal training and probably never encountered before! When and if you actually get to the top, have survived the politics and the BS on the way up then you are suddenly the final word! It can be a little daunting!

“There is a difference between being a leader and being a boss. Both are based on authority. A boss demands blind obedience; a leader earns his authority through understanding and trust.”  Klaus Balkenhol

Imagine you have arrived there! Your days are filled with decision making, about hirings, firings, sales strategies, financing strategies and sourcing strategies. You are integrally involved in pricing decisions, negotiations with suppliers, banks, clients and employees. You have to make investment decisions, decide if you will open that office in Toronto, will buy that technology or should you support the marketing campaign. Will you hire a consultant to help or will you bring someone on board as an employee?

As an employee I would look at my boss and figured he had it easy. I figured that once I was a boss I could sit back and watch my staff do all the work … well, walk a mile in those shoes and you learn pretty quickly that management is no “easy street”. Multiply that by some large factor when you actually get to be the “Big Cheese”!

The real complicating factor at that level is that you get lots of advice and input from your advisors and your staff, but the decisions, responsibility and ultimate accountability rest with you. Who do you share that load with? When I started Eagle I helped to found a peer group and we were able to have many of those kind of conversations. As the boss, you can’t have those discussion with your staff because you need to be the steadying influence, the cheerleader, the optimistic visionary who knows exactly where this ship is headed. Any doubts voiced will just undermine the confidence of the staff.

I think my friend enjoyed his conversation and I have a feeling that we’ll be having lots more of them!

To those of you who think you are ready for management, and more, think long and hard about what you really want from your work. Then look hard at your experience and be honest with yourself about whether you have enough of the right experience to arm you for that next step … it might just be a little harder than you think!

“It’s lonely at the top, so you better know why you are there.” John C. Maxwell