The Advancing Leadership Blog

It Used To Be Lonely At The Top

By definition, a chief executive or business owner has no peer within his or her own organization. They are, after all, at the top of the pyramid in their respective businesses. This was eloquently defined by the colourful wartime U.S. President Harry Truman, who, when he stated “the buck stops here,” was really declaring that the burden of making the ultimate or final decision lies with the leader alone. A lonely place indeed.

Thousands of business leaders have found their own answer to the question of leadership’s loneliness with a peer-based round table in centres across Canada. Part of a global organization, TEC Canada and its counterparts in other nations boast a total membership of nearly 18,000 senior business leaders who share ideas, best practices and their own experience to support the others at the table.

“The most interesting thing is communicating with people who are trying to grow, thinking about real issues,” says Saskatoon business founder and owner Barry Ghiglione, a long-time TEC member who believes so strongly in its process that others on his team have been or currently are members.

Over the years, his family’s multi-faceted Handy Group of Companies has benefited deeply from the collective wisdom of Barry’s TEC group. Drawing on the experience of fellow CEOs in Saskatoon, Ghiglione has found answers to troubling questions such as the direction the local marketplace is headed.

When Saskatoon and Saskatchewan’s rapid economic expansion brought new competition to town, he looked to his TEC colleagues for advice; those who had already been through the topsy-turvy world of Big Box stores entering the marketplace to challenge longstanding locally-owned players.

“I just like being around people who want to learn,” says Ghiglione, a soft-spoken, thoughtful business owner widely recognized in Saskatoon for his contribution to the province’s commercial community. “And to listen to how people make decisions. You get that at a real level in this group.”

People like Barry Ghiglione, thought leaders in their circles of influence, are drawn to TEC because it delivers a world-class learning environment to their door. Sure, he could attend, conferences in the Big Smoke – and often does, generally looking to the World Economic Congress in NYC as another source of information to be used in decision making – but TEC delivers internationally-recognized speakers and workshops to Barry and his fellow TEC members in Saskatoon each month.

Yet, while expert presenters deliver useful insights into new trends or best practices, it is the local experts – his fellow TEC members – that bring Barry back to the meetings month after month.

After all, they know what is happening here, in his home town and local market. They, like him, get up each day to face the challenges presented by the economy in Saskatchewan. It is not hypothetical for them.

Each TEC group – whether comprised of CEOs (owner-operators and professional managers) or the next generation of Saskatchewan business leaders – has its own unique personality. Limited to 15 or 16 executives, the group does not allow competitors or significant vendor-client relationships to assure a high level of trust and confidentiality; the key ingredients for information exchange at a deeper level.

Ghiglione calls it “rubbing shoulders with people of integrity,” individual business owners or managers who know all too well the loneliness of the chief executive’s Chair. For him, coming together with a group of like-minded individuals facing similar challenges provides not only a level of comfort but a potent shot of confidence that key decisions have been vetted by independent third parties with no vetted interest in the process other than wanting to see him succeed.

And he will do the same for them when the time arises.

For Ghiglione and his colleagues, TEC membership provides a double-edged benefit. First, he and the other members have the equivalent of their own personal board of directors whose wisdom can be drawn upon to test a new idea or find a solution to a vexing problem. Second is the removal of loneliness of leadership with each having a Chair, their local group, and by extension, a global community of members with common experiences and a willingness to provide unvarnished guidance and advice.

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