Leadership can be lonely, but it shouldn’t be.
Leadership is only lonely at the top if you create your organization or team to function that way.
Yes, you are responsible for the big, hairy, tough decisions, but you don’t make them all alone. You have a team. You have people you talk to.
So, who do you talk to? I mean REALLY talk to?
Of course, God is at the top of the list, but who are the people in your inner circle?
Leadership can be lonely if you have no one to open up and talk with in deep and meaningful ways, but cultivating these unique relationships is up to you. Asking God to help you find them is an exciting process as you watch it unfold.
Your inner circle of wisdom and confidence can include a group like the one I outline in this post. This is not an exact prescription, just a great model to consider. Build your own that works for you!
The reason this group is so large (7 people as you will see) is because no one person can meet all the needs. And it’s not like you have a weekly meeting with all of them. In fact, some may be a monthly or quarterly phone call and that’s it!
Your group can include seven people that can improve your leadership and help change your life. Again, you don’t have to have all seven, but this is a great model for you to work from.
You may have more than one in each of these categories. But be selective. Go for quality, not quantity. Choose people who are smart, strong and care about you. Don’t rush to fill in the whole group by December 31. Take your time.
One more note, if you’re married, you’ll notice that I didn’t include your spouse. I assume you talk in deep and meaningful ways, but candidly it’s not reasonable to expect your spouse to meet all the needs you encounter as a leader. Your spouse is the core of your group and the center of your life, but it’s too much for them to be your whole group.
7 key people in your inner circle:
1) Prayer partner
I’ve had prayer partners consistently now for more than thirty years. I could not imagine life and leadership without them.
You can have several or just one, but usually, there is one person who is your consistent intercessor over the years. A trusted friend and mature Christian. This is where you get to talk about your deepest and most personal spiritual thoughts, questions, struggles, and desires.
A leadership coach is a person who is more closely involved with your day to day improvement as a leader. They are close enough to observe and coach you. This can be your boss, a colleague on staff, or a seasoned executive business leader in the church. This is where you focus your conversations on your competence and capacity as a leader.
Your mentor(s) are often at a distance, and you meet with them maybe a couple of times a year. They don’t usually advise you in the day to day skills and situations, but more so in big picture life principles.
They may illustrate what they are pouring into you as you present the real-life situations you face, but they are not so much teaching you what to do, as to how to think.
In both the case of a coach or a mentor, it’s important to actually practice what they are talking to you about. If you don’t implement what they are saying, it’s just information, and there is no transformation.
This is the one on the list that doesn’t always work. Not every boss is a person you can talk to. So, I hope your boss is one that you can. But if not, you have six others! If you can, depending on his or her relationship with you, you can talk about nearly anything.
I’ve had two bosses in 37 years, John Maxwell and Kevin Myers. I can talk to either one, about absolutely anything, from leadership to my family and personal goals and dreams. I trust them completely.
5) Spiritual guide
I’ve never had a spiritual guide, but it’s only because I’ve been so blessed with incredible bosses, mentors, and coaches who have covered this area in my life. But a spiritual guide is the person who complements your prayer partner. Where your prayer partner focuses more on praying for you, a spiritual guide helps point the way concerning your spiritual growth.
6) Accountability partner
Accountability partners are fantastic for very specific areas and a focused length of time. It may be for an exercise program, or a new spiritual discipline, or a professional counselor while you work through a personal struggle or family situation.
I saved this person for last because some of you don’t want a group of seven people. That feels like work to you! OK, God may give you an extraordinary friend and one or two others on this list, and you are good to go.
You probably have several or even many friends, but I’m referring to that life-long friend who is “closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) They don’t cover every area in this list, but you can talk about anything. They listen at a heart level, are honest and support you completely.
But if you keep a smaller group, for example, a close friend, a prayer partner, and a mentor, then choose extra wisely!
I hope this helps you and I pray that God brings the inner circle of people to your life that you’ve always hoped for. Your responsibility is to express your love and gratitude and serve several others in the same way this group serves you.