A key to being an effective leader is surrounding yourself with a group of reliable, capable and trusted confidants.
But if you start putting that team together after you’ve risen to a senior rank, you’re late to the game. It’s never too early to begin identifying those people. When you reach your peak, you’ll want those relationships to be rich and mature so that they provide the grounding and loyal support you’ll need to succeed.
My longtime consultant Elliot fits that mold in my life. We first started working together in 1986 when I was a young vice president. “He is the same person now as he was then,” Elliot often says of me.
Hearing that always strikes a chord. It serves as a gentle reminder to never lose touch with my roots no matter what I manage to accomplish.
That kind of message comes best from partners who stay grounded themselves. Often, those are people who have experience working on the front line of organizations — they don’t take their jobs for granted, they remember where they came from and they have a strong sense of their responsibility to others.
As you grow into positions of increasing responsibility, you’ll realize that it is the team around you that actually gets things done. A leader’s role is to chart the course.
Every senior leader inevitably faces the danger of thinking that they are the organization, a viewpoint that can inhibit good judgment and put the organization at risk.
One way I avoid that trap is by making sure I’m grounded in the roots of my organization every night as I drive home. I imagine what our founders, Ellen Browning Scripps and Mother Mary Michael Cummings, would think of the events, decisions and accomplishments of the day.
I’m instantly reminded that I’m part of a much larger whole that has been focused on the Scripps mission long before I arrived here and will continue to do so long after I’m gone.