Leadership and Brain Trust
How well prepared are you to lead into the future?
The world now requires that you lead at a higher level to navigate change and complexity.
It demands that you have a greater capacity for the kinds of decisions and challenges that confront you now and in the future.
This requires a powerful three-pronged approach to support your leadership.
Over the last two articles, we talked about two of these elements, and they are:
- Sharpening your emotional intelligence skills to increase your relational skills, your ability to influence and to impact
- Up-leveling your leadership character to fuel your skills and potential
Without these two abilities, you as leader may be close to your expiry date.
This week, we’ll talk about the third and final element to developing your leadership capacity: brain trust.
What is brain trust, and why do you need it?
The term “brain trust” is a term that was first coined by James Kieran, a New York Times reporter. He used this term to describe the group of leaders assembled by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his presidential administration. President Franklin brought these “brains” together to advise him, decode problems, and design new solutions for America.
It is critical that a leader has a brain trust for several reasons. Here are the top five:
Because leading requires complex decision-making, being able to see and understand a problem or challenge from all angles is necessary.
Albert Einstein’s quote reminds us that you can’t solve these with the same mindset that created them. However, it is often difficult to step outside oneself to see these additional angles. Having a brain trust made up of people who come from various industries and backgrounds means you can tap into a vast pool of experience for greater perspective and creative solutions.
President Roosevelt’s brain trust helped him to enact 19 laws to meet America’s challenges in just the first 100 days of him being in office. He freely admitted this was due to having an intellectual powerhouse to bring ideas and perspective that he could not bring to the table alone.
It gets lonely when you carry big responsibilities. You balance many demands and set the standard for your organization.
Carrying all this alone can cause isolation and stress, as you feel you must face and meet these challenges by yourself. In fact, a recent survey shows that 60% of all leaders express feelings of isolation and they report that this hinders their performance.
Unburdening and processing with family, friends, or direct reports often creates greater stress on these relationships and can’t provide the right kind of support the leader needs to meet life and work effectively.
It is important for you as leader to have a safe and powerful support system that is trustworthy, confidential, and one that can receive and help process the complexity of your challenges.
If you want to continue to grow so that you lead both your life and work solidly into the future, you need input.
What are you not seeing that you need to examine?
How is not leading at a higher level affecting your life and work?
With great responsibilities, you can operate from “stress mode” as you address the immediate and urgent. This can develop tunnel vision, and you will lean on familiar approaches that cannot meet more complex problems. This dynamic will keep you from being able to solve these, and to meet the important goals that will truly make a difference for you and the others around you.
A brain trust will challenge you where you might be playing small with limited thinking or approaches. It will provide that safe space for you to confront where you are holding yourself back and decide how you want to move forward.
Change is hard; growth is hard. Without an accountability mechanism, the biggest goals and commitments are seldom met successfully.
As you process and make the decisions you need in order to move forward in both your life and work, a brain trust will keep you accountable to yourself and your commitments. And because a brain trust’s only agenda is your agenda, you can count on your brain trust as an unbiased and supportive group that has your best interests in mind.
This will help you to stay on track and to focus where you need in order to meet goals.
How edifying and uplifting is your community?
If you are like most, you have little time to enjoy the nurturing benefits of connection and community. In fact, your responsibilities and pace as leader can limit your ability to form meaningful community and to enjoy the gifts and benefits of bonds and belonging.
Sadly, if you are like most leaders, your community feels fragmented and might be made up of some or all of these:
- Frantic seasonal socializing to reconnect with old friends during holidays
- Networking and brainstorming with peers
- Industry or business-specific meetings with colleagues
- Connections with families of your children and grandchildren during sports season
- A weekly (if even that!) church experience
An intentionally-focused community that encourages intellectual improvement, supports personal and professional growth, and genuinely cares about you is an invaluable and rejuvenating asset to the leader. What’s more, being able to connect with this kind of community in time of crisis or celebration is priceless.
“When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable, and what we lack is unprocurable,” wrote Basil.
It is time to admit that going it alone doesn’t work anymore.
As you seek to meet the challenges of the future more effectively, having a solid brain trust is a not a “nice to have,” but a necessary component to your life and work.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.