The 7 Types of People Every Business Leader Needs in Their Life

As you know, leadership is lonely. When you’re the person at the top, who do you turn to? If you have an issue with an employee, you can’t (or shouldn’t) turn to other employees to discuss the issue. If you have a board, you can’t always be open with them because, well, they can fire you. So where do you turn when you need someone else in your life?

As I’ve worked with leaders over the past several decades, I’ve concluded that there are at least seven “types” of people you need in your life. Note: I’ve chosen to use the word, “types,” because frequently I find that one person can wear multiple hats for you (i.e. the seven types may be found in just 3-4 people).

So, what are the seven types? Glad you asked! Here they are.

1. An Encourager

Every leader needs at least one person who is always on their side. One person they can turn to and know, not only does this person have my back, but they’ll find the positive in whatever I’m dealing with. They won’t critique me. They won’t give me a hard time. They’ll just support me and say that whatever I’m doing is right.

Sometimes this person is internal to your business or organization. They can be a key team player, an administrative assistant, or someone who’s been around for a long time. But often, they’re someone outside of your organization who you know you can call up at any time and they’ll lift your spirits and breathe new life into you.

So, who’s your encourager?

2. A “Yes, But” Person

While most of us as leaders don’t like this person a whole lot—you know, the person who always seems to be an Eeyore, who always sees the negative, who always sees what could go wrong—the reality is that we need this person on the team.

Yes, we have to work with them to not always see the negative, but the reality is that every one of us has perception bias which means that there are things we ought to see before making a decision which we just don’t. And that’s why we all need a “yes, but” person in our lives (as painful as that is) because they actually make us better decision-makers.

So, who’s your “Yes, but” person?

3. A Core Teammate

Every leader, as he or she builds out their team, needs to find at least one person (occasionally two) who really gets them. Even though Steve Jobs had a great top team, it was Jony Ivy who was his core teammate. Or during Jack Welch’s reign at GE, it was his HR guy, Bill Conaty who served in that roll.

Yes, you want to build a talented team at the top. And yes, everyone is valuable. But you also need to find that one person who really gets you. Who makes you “a better man” (if you like movie quotes). You need that one person who day in and day out helps you get stuff done at a higher level, who thinks like you think and who operates like your “right hand.”

So, who’s your core teammate?

4. A Confidante/Consigliere

Rarely is this person someone inside your organization (unless you’re a fan of the Godfather) because every leader needs someone they can turn to and talk with—and not have to worry about the repercussions of that conversation.

In light of that, my experience has been that the best person for this key role isn’t a staff member or board member—or even a spouse (if you’re married). Instead, you want to look for someone outside your business who’s a trusted friend or advisor, who’s advice you respect and who you know will never divulge the content of your conversations. It’s that perfect combination of wisdom, the ability to ask good questions, listen intently and keep confidences that makes this person so valuable to you.

So, who is your consigliere?

5. A Coach

Every business leader needs a coach, period. To get to the next level, you need a coach. Someone outside of you who will help you see things you can’t see, fill in parts you don’t get, and who will push you when you need to be pushed.

This is why all great athletes and all great business leaders have them. Case in point for tennis this year would be the rise of Andy Murray. Andy was a great tennis player for years, but he could never put it all together to win a major. However, with Ivan Lendl as his new coach, in the past year he’s won Olympic Gold, the US Open, finished second at the Australian Open, missed the French Open with an injury and won Wimbledon.

Bottom line, coaches make all of us better.

So, who’s your coach?

Note: If you’re looking for a business coach, and don’t have one, you can contact me at [email protected] (or check out my coaching page on this site)

6. A Mentor

The difference between mentors and coaches is usually related to cost (mentors are frequently free, coaches are paid), the randomness of meetings (coaching meetings typically happen on a regular schedule like every other week vs. mentoring which tends to be sporadic–when a need arises), and the lack of accountability (i.e. mentors are rarely checking up and seeing what progress you’ve made vs. coaches are).

Mentors can be board members (if you have a board), but usually they’re people who’ve gone a level or two (or more) beyond you and who are willing to offer advice on an as needed basis. While you might schedule a monthly or quarterly meeting with them, mostly what you want is someone who’s seasoned, who possesses IP that you don’t, and who’s willing to take your call (or email) when it comes in.

So, who’s your mentor?

7. An Accountability Partner

The seventh and final person that every leader needs in their life is an accountability partner. This is critical for you as a business leader because, while you may hold others accountable, rarely will anyone else hold you accountable for your decisions and actions.

For example, rarely will an employee say to the owner of a company, “Hey, you said you were going to get X done by Y date. That date has passed. What happened?” Which is why you need someone else in your life to do that for you. You need someone who won’t be afraid of you and won’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. You need an accountability partner.

So, who is your accountability partner?

Looking at these seven types, how are you doing? Do you have all 7 types? Do you have someone who wears multiple hats for you—maybe a coach who is also your consigliere and your accountability partner?

If you’re missing anyone of these people, make a commitment to find them over the next month or so. And if you have at least one person in each category, why not expand the circle? Why have only one coach? Or one mentor? Or one encourager? Or one core teammate? The more the merrier … except, that is, the “Yes, but” people 🙂

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other people whom you think are critical for a leader to have in their life, add them to the conversation in the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by email or RSS)

P.P.S. If you’re interested in working with a business coach to help you grow your business to the next level, and don’t have one you know, give me a call at 843-754-2283 and we’ll see if we’d be a good fit for each other.

Photo from Sal Falko on Flickr

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