All the elements of savvy leadership are founded on, and supported by, essential relationships.
I’ve seen at least five categories of relationships emerging and successful leaders have:
- The sponsors. All the leadership research shows leaders cannot truly move forward without sponsors. A sponsor may not know about your kids and your weekend activities, and in fact they probably shouldn’t, but they’re willing to spend political capital to advance your career. Sponsors are savvy. They won’t risk their reputation unless your worth it. So for sponsors to recommend you for the promotion or project, they need to know you will over deliver and impress the executives and the clients. Sponsors don’t come overnight. You’ve proven yourself over time when these essential relationships truly grow.
- The mentors. While sponsors may help you climb the ladder, mentors help you figure out what ladder, or jungle gym, or race track you need to be on. Mentors do know about your personal life and your priorities and life goals. Mentors see past immediate opportunities. They help you remember to look from 10,000 feet up to see if you’re still headed in a direction which matches your dreams and values. Mentors are never a one way relationship. In fact NO relationship should be. You should offer to support and help mentors, and sponsors, and advance their goals and achievements in any way possible. All successful relationships are founded on mutual admiration and support.
- The peer network. The individuals may be in similar career stages in similar industries. These aren’t your best friends but people you enjoy hanging out with and who are in similar life stages. I have friends who are in house attorneys at energy companies with families. When we meet up, the insight we can offer one another is tremendous. We truly understand the place the other is in and the competing demands we have for our limited time.
- The diverse friends. These are good friends who you can trust. They come from different backgrounds, different socio-economic experiences, different phases of your life, and do different things in different geographic regions. They help remind you your perspective isn’t everyone’s perspective. From the small things to the big things, they remind you of the world at large. They also help you to laugh and step away from the career conversations. From faith to fashion to family (just like my little blog randomness), these folks feed the important parts of your spirit and mind.
- The mentees. That’s what I’ll call those you give back to. No matter whether you are a CEO of a company or a first year career hire, there are those who need your support. From school aged to soon-to-be college grads to muddled mid-year career folks, there is always someone who would love your perspective and encouragement. Just as I believe you’re never to old to be mentored, I also believe you’re never to young to mentor others. Find someone to encourage along the way this week!
Delighted to be sharing about relationships with the women of LEAD Academy this week, so I’d love to hear what you have to say. How did you find key career relationships? What do your friends do to help you keep your priorities in line? Who else should you have in your life?