The Trap of Lonely Leadership

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On May 14, 2020

The Myth of Lone Wolf Leadership for Scaling Companies

We all know the adage about how “It’s lonely at the top.” It’s understandable. Some decisions will ultimately land on the desk of the CEO, President, or owner of a company. That image of lone wolf leadership for scaling companies, however, is also a bit of a myth. It’s a misunderstanding of the nature of leadership.

Leadership Doesn’t Stop at the Top

As a certified scaling up coach, I’m in constant contact with companies that are looking to transform their businesses and scale up to achieve new heights. Transforming leadership is one of the keys to scaling up. Many of the companies I work with, however, haven’t grasped the fact that leadership doesn’t stop at the top. It’s something that needs to permeate all levels of a scaling company.

Your Job Isn’t Just to Lead—It’s to Train Leadership

If you want to scale up your business, you can’t just limit leadership to the top-level employees in your company. You need to train your leaders to lead—and then train them to teach others to lead.

Multiplied Impact

Why train others to lead? It’s an essential part of scaling up. A leader who constantly has to oversee every aspect of his or her business (or business unit) is limited. He or she can only do so much. By training others to lead a good leader multiplies his or her impact. More time can be devoted to the “big picture” thinking and action. That leads to new ideas and innovation. To use the old saying, it allows leaders to “work on their business instead of just working in their business.”

Morale Impact

You need to train people to lead. Then giving them the responsibility of leadership. That can have an amazing impact on morale. While financial compensation will always be a factor in employee satisfaction and retention, there is increasing evidence that today’s workers are looking for places of employment where their efforts are recognized, and they are part of something bigger than themselves. That’s critical in today’s marketplace. Many companies are struggling not only to hire good employees but to retain them. Here’s a post that digs a bit deeper into what really motivates employees.

Leadership Doesn’t Just Happen

It’s not enough to simply give lip-service to the concept of training leaders. The current leadership has to be committed to developing employees. If this is done properly, it becomes a part of the company’s culture. But it requires being intentional and developing a plan to ensure that it happens. Part of that intentionality involves a financial commitment on your part. In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish suggests committing a ballpark amount of 2 percent to 3 percent of your payroll for training. Keep in mind: That’s not really an expense—it’s an investment in your future.

Lack of leadership development throughout your company is a trap you need to avoid if you’re serious about scaling up. Avoiding common traps for scaling companies is why I wrote Avoiding the Growth Traps. This free eBook can help you identify—and avoid—many of the common missteps that scaling businesses face.


Image by Austin Monroe from Pixabay