The Leadership Gap


Many people, when the get promoted take the decision to step away from their direct reports, from their teams, and create a gap, a Leadership Gap.

They believe this gap is necessary, as they are now leaders they need to be distant from their people.

There are many reasons for this, sometimes it’s ego, sometimes it’s because that’s what they have seen other leaders/managers do, or it could be for some other reason.

Some managers have told me, it’s not good to be close to your people, what happens if you need to fire them or let them go, if you are too close it makes it harder.

When they tell me that, I always ask “it makes it hard for who, you or them?”. If the answer is it makes it harder for you, then I think you need to re-evaluate why you’re creating the gap.

For me, when you create a gap, that in turns creates a disconnection, and nowhere is a disconnection a good thing.

If you are disconnected from your people, your teams, then you are disconnected from the information flow, your finger is no longer on the pulse of the organization, your people no longer feel comfortable coming up to you, approaching you with issues, opportunities, or suggestions.

Many say it’s lonely at the top, but it’s only lonely if we push people away, if we create this leadership gap.

It is true that, ultimately the decisions come down to the leader, and he alone makes the final decision. But this is not the same as being alone, or being lonely.

This is accountability!

It’s why we signed up to be leaders, but it doesn’t mean we need to be lonely.

If the objective of the gap is to remind our people who is the boss, then this is redundant, they already know, that’s crystal clear.

To me this gap is an anathema; I have always got the best out of my teams when they have felt close to me, connected.

It creates a feeling that they are working with me, not for me; that we are in this together, shoulder-to-shoulder, working to achieve a shared objective.

I like to read a lot of military history, as I think leadership in battle is very interesting, I think it can teach us a lot about leading in stressful and difficult conditions.

One of the things that I have read repeatedly is about Julius Caesar and how he would often march with his men when they marched; how he would often eat with them eating what they ate; acting like one of them, not someone distant. They knew who he was, he didn’t need to remind them.

This helped them feel that he was one of them, they were in the struggles together.
This increased the trust, and created a bond of loyalty between them.

Given all of that, why would you create a Leadership Gap, what are the benefits?

I understand that some leaders believe that when you are close it’s harder to discipline people, to provide difficult feedback, to separate when things re not going well, either for them individually, or for the firm.

But most people know it’s not personal. This is a weak excuse.

Leadership is not meant to be easy, it’s a position of responsibility, especially to our people.

If you can keep this gap to the absolute minimum you will reap the rewards, so will your people and so will your company.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles