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Article -> Every Great Leader Needs an Advisor

Date Added: April 2006

Behind every great leader, you will find at least one great advisor. We know that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had the services of Harry Hopkins and General George Marshall. In the same way that it took Bill Belichek and Charlie Weiss to make Tom Brady arguably the best quarterback in the NFL (as a leader - not necessarily based on stats), an advisor makes leaders successful and gives them the tools they need to perform at the top of their game. Advisors are vitally important to even the most charismatic of leaders.

Today, a new cast of advisors has emerged, each existing to assist others. These include:
  • Accountants
  • Executive Coaches
  • Investment Bankers
  • Lawyers
  • Publicists
  • Strategic Business Advisors
  • University Professors

Advisor choices for CEOs and other top leaders continue to multiply, and the job of leading and managing a complex organization becomes more and more difficult. Many leaders, when faced with difficult decisions, choose a third party source to help validate their decisions. This may include a TEC group, CEO Roundtable, or an advisor from the list above. An advisor needs to be someone who is completely separate from a corporate situation - someone that CEOs can reveal all of their thoughts in an open, yet confidential venue.

For one reason or another, many CEOs have expressed prefer that close, trusted advisors are not selected from their own leadership team. Advice from those on the leadership team is very important; however, as they are closely tied to corporate issues, this may produce biased judgment. Advisors must be available when needed and be trusted to focus on the task at hand. Advisors need to keep company goals and deadlines in mind. This can be difficult to accomplish since they are in business for themselves as well. Good advisors focus on what is in the best interests of their clients.1

Characteristics a CEO looks for in an advisor are someone:

  • That is completely focused on the client's agenda and not caught up in their own self interests.
  • Who is a generalist, yet holds a broad understanding of the client and the business environment that the client works in.
  • Who can integrate widely held strategic views that can be applied in any given situation.
  • Who establishes shared beliefs and values, thus enhancing the trust factor that is necessary to making an advisory partnership successful.

Good advisors are readily available, and finding one that displays these four characteristics will make an advisory partnership as productive and successful as possible.

1 Sobel, Andrew. Who Advises the CEO. 2001

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