I launched my chief executive group for Vistage International last week. If you don’t know Vistage, it’s the largest CEO organization in the world with 17,000 members. I was selected to chair new groups in New York City, and while it took considerable effort to put together my first group of men and women chief executives from non-competitive industries – and considerable training in the Vistage model – I can already say it was truly worth it. I looked for leaders who value collaboration and understand that investing time in their own personal, business and leadership development is critical to business growth and fulfillment.
Those of you who have heard me speak know I talk about how successful leaders don’t achieve their visions alone. I also wrote a book and did a TED talk about this. I’m perplexed why so many of us choose to walk a lonely road to achieve our goals. Great leaders always surround themselves with other leaders on their journey. The Warren Buffets, the Steve Jobs and the Henry Fords of the world all have collaborative entourages of outside leaders who give them honest feedback and advice. The members of their entourages are not paid employees or experts. They have nothing to gain financially by giving input. The only thing they gain is friendship, trust and satisfaction when that leader succeeds because of their support. They are givers.
Most of us are too busy to take time away from our businesses to grow these trusted relationships, but we need them to flourish. It took me years to develop the relationships that enabled me to grow my integrated marketing company in the 1990’s and later Women’s Leadership Exchange in 2002. Today, no matter how busy I am, I continue to grow my trusted entourage. I now understand the enormous value of these relationships and I enjoy giving to others. It’s part of my DNA.
Most people, including chief executives of companies, don’t have that collaborative relationship DNA. They have to push themselves to get away from their work to build true connections, and usually they don’t. They say they don’t have time. And they don’t. That’s one of the things I love about the Vistage model. CEOs who join quickly realize they immediately have an entourage of 10 – 16 non-competitive leaders, each committed to each other’s success. By taking one day each month they get to think strategically about growth, deal with challenges, and address opportunities with the support and input of the best board money can’t buy.
As I mentioned the members of my chief executive group are top men and women leaders. Those of you who know I co-founded Women’s Leadership Exchange may be surprised at this diversity. Today, the world has changed. Women are leading more companies, organizations and governments. Though not yet equal, I believe the only way we will solve today’s challenges is by men and women collaborating together, acknowledging the value we each bring and learning to be open to our unique styles of communication. The future of the next generation is dependent on it.
We need more organizations encouraging this collaboration by putting more men and women in the same room. I look forward to sharing more about groups doing this – organizations like Impact Leadership 21, whose “Conversations with Men” program gives men and women collaborative skills to use in corporations, governments and the boardroom. Please email me other groups who are encouraging male-female partnerships, so that we can share in future newsletters. — Leslie Grossman, Vistage Chair, New York City, author, “LINK OUT: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections “ (Wiley, 2013), www.lesliegrossmanleadership.com; contact at email@example.com