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Monday, October 26, 2009

Lonely at the top

Here's another well-known, but very true saying: It's lonely at the top.

While this is a very familiar expression to most of us, it still seems to come as a surprise to many new managers when they move into a supervisory role. What the phrase means to me is that when an unpopular decision has to be made or when the outcome of a project or an activity isn't as good as hoped, the accountability lies with the boss...and no one else.

Like I've mentioned in the past, bosses can pass on responsibility to their team members, but they cannot pass on accountability. It stays with the boss (to read more on accountability v. responsibility click here).

So how do bosses often handle it when they start feeling all alone or singled out or blamed when things don't go right?
    1. They tough it out and try to stand tall and straight...all alone. This is lonely, for sure, and a quick way to get burned out. This is not healthy.
    2. Bosses sometimes try to share their problems with those in their chain of command, the people they supervise. This is not healthy, either, and can often give the picture of a leader who cannot handle the stress (whether accurate or not).
    3. They sometimes try to blame others. While blame is not useful at any time, errant and desperate leaders can try to deflect the heat from themselves onto others. Not only is this unfair, but it is a sign of very immature leadership. This is a quick way for those leaders to get escorted off of the "credibility bus".
    4. Smart bosses find a confidant or mentor to share their frustrations with. This person could be a colleague or someone who has no connection the the boss's work at all. A confidant/mentor can help the boss have a safe place to vent and then provide support as the boss figures out how to move forward positively.

What other ways do you know of that bosses use to keep from feeling all alone?

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