I had a conversation with a friend recently that caused me to do a little self-examination. I had not been able to sit down with this friend for conversation for a few months so it was nice to do some sharing and catching up. During our conversation, the friend indicated that they were going through some rough challenges in their work life. There had been some surprise attacks on the quality of work they were doing and there were still some struggles trying to be resolved in the situation. What caught me a bit off guard was that this was the second conversation with two different friends in this week that had many similarities. The other thing that stood out was that neither friend had called me or sent me a message indicating they would benefit from a talk and some support. I chastised one of the friends for not letting me know, and I reminded both of them that I am just a call away and they can/should contact me any time. Then as I sat in my office after the second conversation, I said to myself that I should not be so surprised that they hadn’t contacted me since I seldom contact anyone when I am facing struggles and challenges.
This has caused me to ponder why many leaders are afraid to call other leaders and friends when they are facing difficult challenges. My first response was because of pride. I know that pride should not prevent us from contacting friends when we need someone to listen to us, but most of us struggle with admitting we are dealing with difficult issues. I think this is even more the case when the issues are regard to attacks on our work performance or something about us personally. Leaders especially want to always give the impression that we have everything together and we can manage the rough waters and personal attacks that come with the role of leader.
The second response that came to my mind was that somehow we have been ingrained with the idea that we must overcome life’s challenges ourselves. The words…. “No one is going to fix it for you,” resonate in our thoughts over and over again. So we soldier on with the idea that we have to be the problem solvers for ourselves. Along with that is the view that tells us we are probably over-reacting and are too sensitive. Leaders are often told that part of being a leader means that you are the target for everyone’s displeasure and projected hurt or anger. It comes with the territory so “either take the heat or get out of the kitchen.”
The result is that many leaders experience pain and wrestle with difficult issues on their own. The attacks come and leaders publicly give the appearance that it has no impact on them while in privacy may even shed tears. Leaders often feel isolated even though they may be surrounded by hundreds of people. However, seldom do they reach out to others for support and assistance. Maybe because the leader fears it might show a sign of weakness. Somehow the idea has come across that leaders can have no weakness if the leader is going to be successful.
So no call, no reaching out, no seeking of support.
This culture has to change. Yes, there has to be a level of trust with the one(s) you reach out to but as the song lyric goes, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” (I know the intent of those lyrics and the next line are not very appropriate, but it is still an appropriate line for this subject.) We all need, especially leaders, friends that we can turn to when the attacks come and the challenges seem overwhelming. Then we need to actually take the opportunity to contact those friends.