As we come to a transition point in our leadership journey, I want to open your mind to how you can effectively lead leaders of leaders. This is elite, world-class level leadership because it requires more of a non-directive style to lead leaders of leaders effectively. At this level, the leaders you lead may not want nor need your leadership. In my last blog, I discussed how to lead leaders of teams by engagingequippingencouraging, and empowering them. We now add a pinnacle level of leadership by elevating others to be greater than us—leading leaders of leaders!

This level of leadership requires you to acquire four essential principles: pursue excellence, not perfection; love people, use things; relationships must have the highest priority; and keep the fire burning. As you read on, reflect on yourself to ensure you have or acquire these principles so that you can then teach other leaders.  Come along with me—but only if you are willing to change how you’ve thought about leadership and leading leaders of leaders.

Pursue Excellence, Not Perfection

At the start of your leadership journey, you wanted to get things right and perfect to gain credibility and influence. That’s good, but when you are at a pinnacle level of leadership, most people know what got you there. The essential element now is “excellence” in all you do; and how you pursue this excellence through others.

This style of leadership requires a Role Mindset shift. Instead of telling and driving others, you must influence other leaders to influence their managers and supervisors to achieve excellence. (For more on Role Mindset Theory, see our blog, How role mindsets shape our success.) The acronym of TEAM states, Together Everyone Achieves More! Pursuing excellence is only done through T-E-A-M. Perfection is a fallacy and wastes time and resources. 

In Hebrew stories, there was a great leader named Nehemiah.  Nehemiah returned to rebuild Jerusalem, which had been in ruins for almost a century. However, Nehemiah knew he needed excellence from all involved, not perfection. So, he motivated all the workers and the building of the wall in 52 days! They focused on excellence in each of their parts of the wall. As a leader of leaders, help them find their piece of your “wall” and pursue excellence in each area! Do you want to have influence as a leader of leaders?  Pursue excellence, not perfection, in every area of your life.

Love People, Use Things

This may sound mushy, but love is the greatest superpower in leadership! Learn to love people and use things—not the other way around. Too many so-called leaders have selfish agendas and utilize their subordinates to get their goals met while leaving a wake of destruction behind them.  

In a former leadership role, I had a staff of forty whose prime responsibility was the planning and coordination of evacuating thousands of civilians out of a country to a safe haven. Not an easy task, but we had a great team. There were country nationals, Anglos, Hispanics, young and old. Our motto was “Row Well and Win” when most organizations said, “Row Well and Live,” based on the original Ben Hur movie. 

As a leader of leaders, I wanted to try something different when I began my role because this was the most intelligent, senior, and diverse group I had ever led.  I decided to lead with love, not fear or threats.  I focused more on touching their hearts versus their minds.  When my subordinate leaders and their families arrived at the organization, I would have breakfast with them, get to know them, ask their spouses if we could do anything to assist in their transition, inform them of expectations, and more.  In the end, we almost had to execute an evacuation.  But we Rowed Well Together and Won—in life, marriages, relationships, and family! As a leader of leaders, you must love people and use things to achieve excellence!

Relationships Must Have the Highest Priority

When you pursue excellence and love people as a leader, then you’ll be in alignment to realize relationships must have the highest priority. Relationships must have the highest priority if you are to sustain long-lasting influence and legacy with anyone or any organization. Relationships having priority means you don’t let anything go before the relationship. If anything threatens to ruin, fracture, or diminish the relationship, then you stop it and don’t allow it. Live this way, and you will never find yourself alone, regardless of your circumstances; on the mountain top or in the valley, relationships will see you through!

Keep The Fire Burning

What sets your soul on fire?  In Hebrew history, the priest had to keep the fire burning at the altar 24 hours a day during certain feasts.  The consuming fire was a reminder of the sacrifice they had to make daily to a cause greater than themselves, to lay it on the altar and let it set their souls on fire.  Men—what sets your soul on fire? Ladies—what makes your heart sing? Write it down, ensure it is others-focused and greater than yourself. Then fearlessly pursue that which sets your soul on fire, and don’t settle—in your life, hobbies, future careers, marriages, or parenting! Don’t settle or let the fire go out!  Ensure you are living for something that will outlive you and impact the lives of your leaders for a lifetime.

Dan Sullivan, strategic coach and co-author of the book Who Not How, states: “It can be easy to focus on how, especially for high achievers who want to control what they can control, which is themselves. It takes vulnerability and trust to expand your efforts and build a winning team. Your attention and energy should not be spread thin but purposefully directed where you can experience extreme flow and creativity.” Where is your attention directed? What can you be doing to lead leaders of leaders? If you aren’t sure, the process outlined above can get you started.