You Maybe Be the Leader But Who Has Your Back?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On March 4, 2014

You know how they say, “It’s lonely at the top”? Nobody knows that better than the leader of a business. It doesn’t really matter if your title is CEO, President, or simply Owner. If you’re the person ultimately responsible for the big decisions that determine the direction (and success or failure) of your company, it’s easy to feel like you’re hanging out there on your own and working without a net.

Most of us know that it’s not wise to play the role of the Lone Ranger when it comes to business decisions. Even those of us who are extremely independent know that we need the input and support of others to stay grounded. But how do you decide whom to include on your support team? How do you decide who has your back?

A recent FastCompany.com article queried a number of “networking masters” to see who their inner circle would include. Don’t let that phrase “networking” throw you off. What these business leaders talked about was the kind of people they wanted watching their backs. You can read the whole article here, but let’s look at a few highlights.

Harvey Mackay, CEO of MackayMitchell Envelope Company and author of Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive, chooses his “back-watchers” based on these five roles:

1. Best friend: This would be the one person in the world to whom you can tell everything and anything.

2. Doctor: He’d include a medical expert who can give good counsel about health and enable him to make well-informed decisions in case of illness.

3. Legal expert: It doesn’t matter if it’s personal or legal advice—it’s good to have trustworthy legal counsel. And an attorney can also be a good sounding board for tricky situations that could affect your well-being.

4. Mentor or coach: Never stop learning. It’s important to develop a good relationship with a person who can teach you what you need to know—and help you get there.

5. Business advisor: There are times when you’re faced with a decision and you need the input of someone who will give you absolutely objective input—whether you want to hear it or not.

You don’t have to limit your choices to roles, however. Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of Upland, California, business networking organization and co-author of Masters of Networking, selects his group based on the following characteristics.

1. Values: You need to surround yourself with people who share your values.

2. Diversity: It’s easy to get myopic in your view of business. Find people who move in different circles and can bring a fresh perspective.

3. Achievement: Find people who are more accomplished/successful than you are.  Don’t be intimidated—learn from them!

4. Helpfulness: Look for people who are willing and able to help. If someone isn’t interested in helping you, don’t include them. And reciprocate when you can.

5. Respect. This needs to be mutual. Surround yourself with people you respect and who also respect you.

Ultimately, the decisions will still be yours to make, but it doesn’t have to be quite so lonely at the top.

What other qualities are important to you for those who will have your back?