Why Every Leader Needs an Advocate

You are worth having a team whose focus is your success.

One of the best moves I ever made was to bring an advocate onto my team. An advocate isn’t just a coach or mentor or counselor or consultant; all of those roles hold value. Yet, an advocate is some of all of that and a bit more.

My advocate has helped me get a handle on my professional identity, career trajectory, personal sanity and supportive community.

In essence, an advocate is one called alongside another to help. My advocate champions me. More than a cheerleader (though I appreciate the constant encouragement), my advocate is a combination of insight, inspiration, inquiry and information all bundled up for my individual needs. As a result, I am able to give to people the best version of myself.

My advocate has become my friend, but he is very intentional in my life about three things:

Photo by Noah Buscher

Champion

My advocate does not approach me with a formula. The agenda of our relationship is driven by what I identify as needs. He will help me to make the identification, but I choose what I want to work on. As I dive into the work, my advocate is proactive in communication and encouragement.

Aside from my personal work, my advocate is constantly working on how I am postured to others. He not only speaks well of me to others, but he is always interpreting what I bring to him through the grid of my best interest and true image. In this sense, he makes sure my choices are in alignment with my values and my actions are congruent with the outcomes I seek.

Leadership is rough. My advocate does cheer me up and cheer me on, but the true inspiration I gain is the truth he speaks and reminds me of. Ultimately, hope is anchored in conviction. My advocate helps me clear away confusion and act on clarity.

I hang onto two principles: “being, not seeming” and ‘doing flows from being”. I do not want to waste energy in a false self; and knowing my true self, I want to press into what I do best.

Guide

My advocate ensures that I am pursuing my best. Seeing the best in me, and seeking the best for me, he comes alongside to help me clarify my thinking and to discern the wise plans of action.

He does this through a series of questions that are committed to drawing out of me what I think, not just pouring into me what I should think. It’s a huge difference, and though he occasionally offers counsel from his own experience, it is only at my invitation.

Leaders are inundated with information, models, principles, podcasts and the like. What we rarely have is the person who knows the right questions to draw out the best solutions. My advocate is the king of questions, never stopping a line of questioning until I have mined all there is to find.

The value to me is ownership. I now don’t act unless I know that it is with conviction. Training beats trying. For too long, I would try something on the counsel of another. Now I game plan, and train toward the strategy I believe in.

Resource

Leaders work in isolation. We wade into the waters of shallow networking. We plunge into an ocean of new ideas, but drift from our own context. We don’t often know where to turn or who to trust.

My advocate helps me build community, and helps me connect with the right resources for the right time. Sometimes the resource is direct: people I need to meet, counsel I need to seek, experts I need to learn from. At other times, the resource is indirect: a timely article, book, or podcast. Either way, my advocate is helping me find customized insight for real time needs.

I have spoken of one resource often: The CIO Mastermind. From this group, I derive the benefit of unbiased eyes and unequaled experience through the counsel of peers. My advocate has played a key role in my development within this group.

I am a big fan of advocacy. I have written about it because I believe every leader needs one, especially the leader who still fights for a seat at the table, and who is still learning how to be rightly valued and postured within the organization.

Having gained so much through my advocate, I have become one. The depth of meaning it provides me is incomparable. I like to win when another wins through my support. It is energizing and life-giving.

Let me know if I can help you find an advocate. We all need someone who is focused on our identity, success and community.

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Helping those who contend for diverse and unbiased input. I started CIO Mastermind to enhance the effectiveness of technology leaders in organizations.

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Scott Smeester - CIO Mastermind

Scott Smeester - CIO Mastermind

Helping those who contend for diverse and unbiased input. I started CIO Mastermind to enhance the effectiveness of technology leaders in organizations.

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