No matter how talented or insightful you are, you will do better work if there is someone close to you to whom you can delegate certain tasks, from whom you can solicit a second opinion or advice, and whom you can trust in a tough spot to “watch your back” or help you get a tough task completed. Part of this relationship is “operational” and part of it is personal. I don’t mean personal in the context of a personal vs. professional relationship. I mean personal in the sense that part of what you gain in the relationship comes from the connection you develop with the individual as a person. These are the kinds of relationships that foster things such as loyalty and trust and they can be invaluable in terms of your own success.
One of the reasons that such relationships are helpful is that sometimes we face issues or challenges as leaders that are “messy” because they involve delicate and/or political or cultural issues that do not have clear answers or even objectively agreeable interpretations. In those situations we often benefit by being able to discuss such issues in very frank ways that we would not or could not in more public settings. Having someone with whom we can be vulnerable or “politically incorrect” as we work our way to defensible decisions can be invaluable. The reality, particularly in today’s very dynamic and often ambiguous operating environments, is that effective leadership requires that we choose not between right and wrong decisions or courses of action, but between what we believe is the most viable of several potential decisions or courses of action. It is therefore extremely helpful to have a trusted advisor with whom we can openly and candidly evaluate all options.
Additionally, a nice benefit of nurturing this kind of relationship is that you also help the “right hand man/woman” develop important skills, knowledge and confidence toward his or her own personal and professional growth, so it is a win-win!