Most Leaders Don’t Know They Are Always On Stage

It took you years, possibly decades, to get to the top of your field. And now that you’ve reached the peak and look to your left and to your right you quickly discover… It can be quite lonely at the top. 

It’s difficult to figure out who you can trust because it seems like whenever you confide in a team member the story gets out and ends up doing more damage than good. You don’t want to vent to your family anymore because you’re already spending the majority of your time at the office. You feel the weight of your entire company on your shoulders and it’s hard for you to stay positive.

There’s just not enough hours in the day.

How do you figure out who you can trust with sensitive information?

Who do you go to if you’re avoiding sharing your woes with your family?

In today’s post I share practical tips to help you leave your work in your car at the end of the day and why this is important. You’ll learn you’re always on stage and I will give you the tools to be an excellent example.

Are you ready to shine in the spot light?

Who can you trust?

My good friend Brandon worked with me for a number of years and I could trust him completely. Two of his Gallup Strengths Finder themes are relator and responsibility which will to display these strengths when he’s at his best:

  • Relator: caring, trusting, a great friend, forgiving, generous 
  • Responsibility: committed, accountable, independent, trusted, conscientious 

Brandon proved time and time again he was able to be trusted. Over the years I vented my frustrations to him about various employees, shared strategic initiatives coming down the pike that I was struggling to implement, and I opened up with my completely unfiltered thoughts. 

You must have someone like Brandon in your life. If you don’t you will eventually crack and spill your guts onto a subordinate you think you can trust. Unfortunately, their loyalty will be with their peers and whatever you tell them will get out.

If you don’t have someone you can trust then always proceed knowing whatever you share with one team member will spread to your entire team. If there is something you don’t want everyone to know it is better to not say it at all.

It’s often safe to vent sideways to your peers, but this isn’t always true! Sometimes these folks would like nothing more than to see you fall down. They may think you are competing for the same promotion and can use what you share against you. It’s very important for you to do the work to find someone you can trust. 

Venting to your boss can be a problem

If you have a boss then it can be complicated to vent to them also. You don’t want it to appear like you are complaining or are dissatisfied with your job. So what do you do? 

You won’t be able to vent to every boss. Their receptiveness will depend on their personality, your relationship, and exactly what you are struggling with. 

When you approach them it is better to ask for advice on specific and actionable scenarios. Try not to go to them with general complaints. And absolutely do not ask your boss to help you with the same problem more than once.

You will get a lot further and it will be a lot easier if you find someone else to vent to.

What if you’re at the top?

I’m sorry if you are at the top of your organization then you are on an island and will need to have intense mental fortitude and be able to handle most stressors yourself. But this is how you got to the top right?

It’s a good idea for you to find a few friends at the same levels as you and don’t work in your same industry. Or can you join a peer advisory group like the C12 Group?

“Form a small accountability group. I’ve seen guys all over the country do this. An accountability group is simply a small group of guys who get together either every week or every two weeks for breakfast or lunch. It can be two guys or five guys—but not much more than that. The purpose is simply to get together and check in with each other. There is really no agenda other than being honest. The discussion should center around each man giving a report on his spiritual disciplines, his job, his family, and anything else the other men should know about. If you had a rough time with temptation, you should clue them in. If you are facing a personal crisis at home or on the job, you should let them in on it and seek their counsel and prayers. Obviously, these are men that you know and trust. Everything is confidential. The value of such a group is that it will sharpen you as a spiritual leader of your home. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).”

Point Man, by Steve Farrar

Don’t bring your work home with you

Your wife and kids do not want to hear about your work every-single-day. Venting to your wife is okay once in a while, but it will start to erode your marriage if it’s an every day occurrence. Being the leader of your home requires you to put your work aside at the end of the day and be present and available for your family. I shared this simple tip on how to build a separator between your work and your home in my post about 3 common sins, “Before getting out of the car take a few moments to breath deeply, say a prayer thanking God for the day and for safe passage home, and think of a few things you are grateful for.”

If your family thinks you are stressed, overworked, and tired they aren’t going to tell you about everything that is going on in their life. They won’t tell you about their day and they surely won’t want to add any additional drama to your plate. This will harm your relationships in the long run and you may not even see it coming.

Instead bring your problems to God

You are trying to avoid venting to your co-workers, you don’t want to vent to your boss, and you are leaving your problems in your car after arriving home from work. So who do you talk to? 

The best place to vent may be to God. He doesn’t hold a grudge, He’s not trying to steal a promotion from you, and He can completely understand what you are going through. It may seem a bit silly to bring Him a problem as small as drama between your co-workers or to discuss an employee you really like personally, but have to let go because he isn’t getting his work done on time. But, He wants to hear about these things! 

Try this everyday this week

Before hopping out of your car at the end of a long work day. 

  1. Breath deeply for two breaths. Breath in through your nose for four seconds, pause for seven seconds at the top, blow the breath evenly out your mouth for eight seconds. Letting your shoulders drop and your neck straighten and chin slightly lift up. Now repeat one more time.
  2. Say a prayer thanking God for the day and for safe passage home and tell him what is troubling you, what is making you nervous about you work, the people or projects that are frustrating you, and what has been keeping you up. Ask Him to give you the wisdom to solve all of this and to help you to be fully present and aware with your family when you walk through the door.
  3. Then go into your house, tell your wife and kids you love them, and give them a big long hug.
  4. Finally, ignore your phone calls, text messages, email, and do not talk about anything bugging you about your work day until after dinner. 
  5. If at this point you still have something you want to get off your chest, go ahead and share it. And if you must, go ahead and check for work messages at this time.

Speak only for yourself

A few years ago, I had an employee with a toxic attitude. Let’s call him Jason. He always thought he was right, he didn’t take constructive criticism well, and he seemed to like to start gossip amongst his co-workers. 

I have never shied away from giving tough feedback to an employee, so one day I sat him down privately and told him what I thought of his attitude. I gave him specific examples, told him ways he could work on it, and explained that I was here to help him as needed. These conversations are usually difficult because the employees you feel most comfortable giving critical feedback to are generally employees you have the best relationships with and, the specific issue removed, are generally quite likable. It is important to be fair and give them honest feedback, even if it is tough for them to hear and for you to deliver. 

While having these types of crucial conversations is important to speak only for yourself and no one else. While talking to Jason I said, “The management team thinks…”, “Our leadership team feels…”, and “We have been seeing this a lot from you lately…” these are simple phrases that distanced me from the conversation and made it easier to give honest feedback. 

It allowed me think, “I’m not the only one that feels this way, other people feel it too” and this would be completely fine if those people were in the room with me, but they weren’t… It was just him and I in a small office. 

This caused my message to become diluted and for him to wonder who else thought this of him. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well and my point was not made. To make matters worse, he then went up to the other managers and asked them to corroborate my story by saying, “Do you really think this about me?” 

Your peers aren’t always going to back you up even if they had just told you five minutes prior they felt the same way. Sometimes they will take the easy way out and just shrug their shoulders and plead the fifth. This made me look like a liar and a bully and that I was picking on the employee with no one to back up what I had to say and it did not help with my personal brand.

Your team will match your work habits

Do you take breaks for lunch or do you keep your head down in your work and brag about how much you got done that by not taking a rest?

When was the last time you took a vacation?

Are you always staying in the office late?

Think about these questions and answer them honestly and know the majority of your team will mimic you.

Some members of your team may love skipping vacations, never taking a lunch break, and missing dinner at home because they are in the office until 6 or 7pm each day, but most absolutely hate it! They may not realize it bothers them because they get stuck in our culture of more, more, and more. Your team is not being productive by working all these extra hours, it is just making you feel good.

If you want your team to be rested, energized, and motivated to tackle the biggest problems your company faces then you need to lead by example.

You must take lunches. Take one vacation per quarter and actually leave your home, no stations for at least two of them. And you can’t stay late every single day! 

If you are afraid to take vacations because you think your company will fall apart. Then you might need to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are holding the reigns too tightly

Help your team plan their vacations

Have your HR partner print out your employee’s PTO balances and you will find that most your team doesn’t use all their PTO and it ends up going to waste. You need encourage them to take time off. Your employees will be more focused and happy to be at work if they are prioritizing their personal time. Having PTO time go to waste doesn’t do anyone any favors. 

I remember when I stated working at a new Best Buy store and I discovered nobody was using their vacation time. I was disappointed because I always make sure to take mine. I didn’t want to seem like an under achiever that was always going out of town, so I grabbed each of the other managers in the building and sat them down to calendar out their vacation time. If everyone else started taking their time, then I wouldn’t look like a slacker. I even helped two of them plan their first vacations in years!

You can’t expect your team to be as invested in the success of your business as you are. Quite frankly you probably don’t pay them enough! Be gracious and don’t force them to work as many hours as you are. If your team is burnt out and tired they aren’t getting much work done anyway. A well rested team is an inspired team.

Social media and the grocery store

What you say on social media represents your company and your professional brand. When you are a leader you no longer get to have privacy. You will be judged by the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the people you hang out with, and especially what you say online. 

Your employees, customers, vendors, and partners will check up on your social media accounts from time to time and if they see your feeds are full of political conversations they disagree with, profanity, and lewd images it will absolutely affect your leadership. 

You must ask yourself before posting online if it is going to harm your reputation and if your post will help you meet the goals of your organization. The more successful you are and the more visible your position is, the more important it is for you to pay attention to your public image. 

Even when you are out in public you are still on stage. You will run into employees from work and will often get to meet their family. This is a great opportunity for you to talk them up and say how good of a job they do for you, how well they have performed on their projects lately, and how much their contributions have helped the company. Share how they are invaluable to your organization. Your team is spending more time with you than their family and this high praise will go a long way.


Take a minute and imagine your employees sitting at the dinner table with their family. 

What are they saying about your company? 

Are they happy with their work or are they looking for another job?

You may have never thought about this before, but you are often the topic of conversation around the dinner table. You sign your team’s paychecks and the decisions you make in the office affect hundreds of families. 

You are always on stage and the way you operate your business will either be a blessing to your team or a curse. 

This week I challenge you to take a good hard look in the mirror and think about the environment you are creating. Would you be proud to overhear the dinner table conversations in employee’s homes? Or would you be embarrassed. 

Is there anything you are struggling with that I missed? Share your answers below! I will read them all.

2 replies on “Most Leaders Don’t Know They Are Always On Stage”

Nice Piece! As a former Retail manager, all of this was very relatable, and it serves as a gentle reminder of things that are easy to forget. Loved it

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