Is your exec or manager a brilliant shining star? Do you ever feel small or invisible next to him or her? What if you sometimes seem smaller than you are, because actually you’re bigger than people can see?
On a recent hike to catch the last fall leaves, my friend and I chatted about a celebrity entrepreneur who sold his company and lived and taught personal development in our area. You’d know him if I named him. But this article isn’t really about him – it’s about you and your boss. So I’ll call our celebrity friend “Rich,” which fits (but not as well as it once did).
Rich was brilliant, successful, handsome and charismatic. In other words, he had it all. Well, everything except for balance. I heard he was full of himself and stayed away. My friend attended his classes and found him to be exceptional – with near-fatal flaws. As his entourage grew, so did his imbalances. He had power. He didn’t have grace. As we hiked our golden aspen-leafed trail, my friend and I wondered what became of him
I checked Rich out on Wikipedia. His star dimmed. He’s been plagued by lawsuits, endured a police raid and faces other daunting challenges. Some of the barrage appears undeserved, and yet none of it surprises me. As a leader with near-fatal flaws, the excesses that took him to the top eventually caught up with him.
I think of a tale of a great teacher. When he walked through the forest, the trees grew taller and bore more luscious fruit than anywhere else in the world. Impressive, right? Word spread about the glory of this teacher. People flocked to be near him. No one noticed that the trees that
grew so large disrupted the balance in the forest. They crowded out the ferns and took vital nutrients that other plants required.
Charismatic leaders can be like that. They capture audiences, command attention, and stand out in a crowd. They’re remarkable. They have power. And they can leave a trail of imbalance behind them.
This is where you come in. Balancing isn’t as flashy as triumphs and breakthroughs. But balancing makes leadership work. A leader with near-fatal flaws and the right admin can achieve great things. A leader with the same flaws without the right admin can crash and burn.
Admins attend to what is left behind. Admins create equilibrium. People might ooh and aah over the remarkable visible qualities of a charismatic leader while overlooking the integrated, less-dramatic traits of those who make things work. In fact, much of what you do might be bigger than most people can see. They might envision a big moment while you envision systems that support a lot of big moments. They might envision huge expansion while you’re figuring out how to build a foundation that will keep expansion from becoming chaos.
Imagine a teacher who walks through the forest and everything is nourished in proportion to everything else. Would people flock from the ends of the earth to be near that teacher? Unlikely. But they should. As miraculous as the first scenario is, balanced sustainable growth is all the more remarkable.
“Tracy,” an admin who attended my Executive Admin training, supports an elitist executive. This executive is so removed from the team, she conferenced in to a meeting held down the hall rather than attend in person. (She was the only one who wasn’t in the room). Instead of judging or reacting to this near-fatal flaw, Tracy balances out her exec. She fills in the interpersonal spaces – gaping holes, actually – that her exec ignores. That balancing allows the executive to do what she does well without crashing and burning from her limitation.
We’re all bigger than others can see. The trick is to see our bigness ourselves and share it.
Part of our bigness is in not letting the limitations of others blind us to their excellence. Tracy’s exec has a near-fatal flaw and also has skills and talents that qualify her for her executive position. Tracy creates equilibrium for a very imbalanced professional. Tracy shines in a way that helps her boss succeed.
Standing next to Rich or Tracy’s exec, my light and your light might seem small or even invisible. Let’s not let that stop us. Remember:
What missing piece do you provide? How do you balance out the whole? How are you bigger than people can see?
Share your gift stealthily. Plant seeds where you can. Sometimes insisting people acknowledge us interferes with effectiveness.
Make your gift visible when it serves the vision, mission and your ability to be your professional best. Sometimes people do need to hear what you do for them.
Don’t be fooled by the brightness of charismatic leaders. They may outshine others, but they need everyone to shine in our own light.
I read once that we shouldn’t fear executives. We should fear for them. That way we can truly offer the support they require.
I believe that. I wonder if Rich had anyone who was willing to drop their awe and fear for him. If he had, perhaps his star would not have faded.