'You need to be really great at your job. You need a strong network of peers, and you need a strong network of mentors.' ~ Caroline GhosnClick To Tweet

They say it’s lonely at the top.

They also say it isn’t. Or it shouldn’t be.

Most of the people who say it isn’t are senior execs who haven’t cracked CEO yet, or Founder CEs running their companies like communes (I don’t mean that as a bad thing, by the way).

If, however, you are employed in the position of Chief Executive (or Executive Director or whatever) there are facets of the job that are your burden alone to carry. There is nobody behind you to catch the one that gets through.

Just. You.

Not Arrogance or Ego…

Please be clear, I’m not speaking here about seeming to have all the answers – that’s a fool’s game. Nor am I talking about having no-one to share your mistakes or vulnerabilities with. I make – and have – plenty of both, and I discuss them with people I trust – regardless of their position or status.

That’s like saying “I’m the boss. I have to appear big and strong and certain, and I can’t let anyone else know I have no idea what we should do next”. That’s exhausting – not lonely!

…But Accountability

No, I’m talking about the unique and previously unfathomable sense that you are ultimately responsible for tens, or hundreds, or even thousands of people’s working lives… and the consequences of these for their families. That you can bump into a major stakeholder at the supermarket, or the park with your kids, or when you’re sick, or grumpy or sad. That you are always on. I spoke about this with Hayley Collins in her Podcast last year.

People who have been in this job will know exactly what I’m talking about. The moment you are sitting in the chair, and you realise “there is nobody else”.

People who haven’t will think I must be exaggerating – or it doesn’t sound that bad – but they won’t get it.

Virtual Mentors Help You in the Chair

Even people who have acted in the role don’t get to enjoy this experience. As one of my direct reports said to me when I returned from an overseas trip where she had been acting: “I knew you were coming back”.

My Virtual Mentor Support Team

While you do get used to this feeling, I’ve decided this year to try a new approach to it.

I’ve created a team of virtual mentors. People who I admire and respect. People with a decent body of written or spoken material to delve into. People who demonstrate facets of the leader I hope to be.

I’ve always been an avid reader. But I tend to synthesise what I learn into an increasingly comprehensive multifaceted dynamic world-view. Academics, they say, know more and more about less and less. For me, the more I learn and read, the less separate everything seems to be – the more interconnected the world becomes.

This is great. It’s usually a strength. Except it doesn’t work well for new knowledge that doesn’t yet have anywhere to ‘plug in’ (that I’m not ready for yet) AND while it gives me great intellectual and theoretical understanding, it doesn’t necessarily translate into practical application. For example, I know that Benjamin Franklin had a number of daily rituals that enabled him to be highly productive, but I’ve never specifically put them into practice to see if they work for me!

So I’ve selected a virtual mentor team, and I plan to devour their written and spoken material, and deliberately take notes and experiment with their habits and practices to see if they help me. Even if it’s just to remind me that highly successful people are still just people!

So who are they?

During this year, where it might be interesting, I’ll share some insights, reflections or revelations I have with you. I’m going to update my website to have a bit more about these fantastic folks, and in a coming post, I’ll share how I selected them.

Who would be on your Virtual Mentors Team?  Flick me a note – I’d love to hear!


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