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It Takes a Village to be a Great Leader

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Leaders Get Help from Coaches, Therapists and Friends

Successful CEOs may be rugged individualists and lonely visionaries, but studies show many of the highest achievers get help from a surprising assortment of people, including colleagues, coaches, support groups and personal therapists.

Allen Gannett, the CEO of TrackMaven, a marketing analysis firm, surveyed 56 venture-backed startup CEOs on how they get the personal and professional support they need to get their companies started and keep them going.  In a FastCompany story he reports that 95 percent of entrepreneurs said they got advice and support through informal talks with peers. Many got help from coaches, and the portion who did increased as their companies scaled up. Gannett notes 32 percent of CEOs in beginning stage companies sought coaches, while 60 percent did when their companies were in growth stage. 

Gannet says the late Bill Campbell, the Columbia football coach who became chairman of the board of Intuit, coached such tech giants as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sheryl Sandberg.   

Gannett found that overall, fewer than 10 percent of CEOs he studied turned to personal therapists, but the need increased as businesses grew: only 4 percent of seed-sage CEO had psychologists, psychiatrists or licensed therapists, but 30 percent of growth stage CEOs did.

The idea that entrepreneurs or top business executives aren’t immune to mental health issues isn’t new. A 2004 Wall Street Journal story describes how increasing numbers of CEOs were seeking therapy to deal with stress and latent mental illness.  A recent Business Insider story discusses the work of Jeff Hyman, an entrepreneur who launched Startup Therapist, now Strong Suits.  He’s a counselor, rather than a licensed therapist, who helps business leaders deal with a range of  business and workplace issues.  Most often, he says, it’s the human side of the work that’s hardest for CEOs and managers. 

In addition to individual advisors, some executives turn to organizations such as the Young Presidents Organization and Vistage. They charge, but they provide networking opportunities and a range of services.   

No matter how independent, self-reliant and hard-charging CEOs are, Gannett writes, they need lots of help and support as they pursue success. “Great leadership really does take a village,” Gannett says.  Read the Fast Company story here.


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