“There are some dragons in my life I cannot slay on my own.” ~ Ted Beasley
It’s no good going it alone.
But that’s what many leaders do: Take the world on their shoulders. Bear the burden. Soldier on. Quietly persevere. That’s what it means to be a leader, right? You carry the weight of leadership so those you serve don’t have to. You find the path forward. You come up with the answer. You make the call. You take the hits.
All by yourself. Leadership is, after all, a lonely calling.
It’s true that leadership has its costs. But trying to do it all by yourself isn’t good leadership; it’s martyrdom. Moses nearly reached the point of collapse before Jethro finally got it through his bonehead that he needed a team supporting him behind the scenes.
Well then. Consider me your Jethro.
You, my dear leader, need a team. And I’m not talking about your senior leadership team, or your organization’s board of directors. I’m talking about a personal support team ~ a small cohort of wise allies ensconced firmly in your corner, providing advice, support, comfort, direction, and friendship, helping you to live into your full potential as a leader and a follower of Christ.
Some call it a personal Board of Directors; others use labels such as “Team John” or “Team Jenni.” But whatever you call it, you need to create one. Here’s how:
Make a list of potential candidates. If you have a spouse, they should definitely be one of them. Beyond that, consider people who are mature, wise, honest, and trustworthy, and who can support you in one or more of these areas of your life:
- Your Ongoing Spiritual Growth
- Your Personal Development
- Your Growth as a Leader
- Your Health & Fitness
- Your Family and Marriage
- Your Financial Health
- Your Recreational Life (You know, the art of taking time off and having fun!)
Keep it to no more than five people. It’s fine if one person helps support you in more than one area, but have at least three on your team so you can get a variety of perspectives when you need it.
Choose people who are strong where you are weak. And avoid choosing folks who think just like you do. You want people who believe in you absolutely, but are also willing and able to help you see alternative ways of seeing problems or interpreting events.
Formalize it. When you’re ready to invite someone in to be a part of your personal board, don’t hold your cards close to the vest about it. Tell them exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and why you want them to be a part of it. Formally ask them to be on your team, and let them know what kind of commitment you think that means for them.
Meet regularly. Make it a priority…because it is. At a minimum, meet with each of your board members at least once a month. But more often is better. I meet with members of my own team every single week, and I’ve never once regretted it or felt it was time better spent doing something else on the task list. You can meet with them all together, or separately as you like ~ that’s up to you (it’s your team, remember?)
When you meet, don’t just “report in”; ask for help. This is good practice for you, and a meaningful opportunity for them. (Does it really surprise you that there are people out there who love you and really want to serve you?) Get specific about struggles you’re facing as well as where you want to grow or stretch yourself in each of the bulleted areas listed above, and suggest specific ways that your team can help you get where you want to go. Oh…and about the ubiquitous “pray for me” request. That’s an awesome request; perhaps the most important one you can make. And it can also be a cop out to avoid asking for specific help you really need. Don’t hide. Give your friends the opportunity to authentically serve you.
Your leadership matters a lot. Certainly it matters enough to not try to go it alone.
If you already have a personal “board of directors,” I’d love to hear about it. How do you have it set up? What’s working well? What lessons have you learned? Share in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.