Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

That line is from From Act III, Scene 1, Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, in which the king laments his inability to sleep. Leadership is a burden, whether you are the President attempting to calm the nation in the wake of an act of terrorism, or a CEO taking questions at the all hands meeting about the financing everyone knows is going on but hasn’t happened yet.

I work with leaders all day long. I sometimes advise them. I sometimes critique them. And mostly I support them. Someone has to. Because everyone is relying on the leader but who is the leader going to rely on?

The team around the leader is critical. In the case of the CEO that is the executive team, usually the direct reports but sometimes a few more, and the Board who the CEO is accountable to. Get those two groups right and leadership becomes a bit less of a burden.

If you are a CEO and you are feeling that uneasy head right now, look around you. Do you have the support you need from your team and your board? If the answer is no, do something about it. Because you can’t be a great leader without a great support system.

And get a coach. I’ve written about that frequently here at AVC. The leadership team and the Board, as important as they are, have complicated relationships with the CEO. A coach should be a person who can be completely and totally focused on supporting the CEO. There are many good ones out there.

I also encourage CEOs to join a CEO support group. Meeting regularly with peer CEOs is a great way to vent with each other about the nonsense that goes on in a company, but it is also a great place to get actionable advice and learn from each other.

Most org charts have the CEO on top and then a triangular outline of the team underneath. But the correct visualization is the CEO on the bottom with a triangle outline of the team on top of them. That’s leadership. And it is not easy.


Jason Wright posted this into the comments. Thanks Jason. I’m posting it here too.