By Paden Hughes Six weeks ago, our “fearless leader,” Michael Gunther, flew away into the sunset for a seven week sabbatical. That’s when change hit us at Collaboration and WorkTraits. For me, primarily responsible for the consulting side of our business, it’s felt like being an understudy who gets pulled into the lead role—suddenly the curtain lifts and it’s all up to you to make sure the “show goes on.”  You hope you remember all of your training, you hope people won’t write horrible reviews about you, and you really hope your audience will like your interpretation of the role they all came to see. I’ve been asked by many friends and clients what it’s like “running consulting” while Michael has been gone. Stepping back to consider the past six weeks, one thing is abundantly clear to me: you are never more aware of your leader’s effectiveness than when you are trying to fill his or her shoes. I’ve learned a lot. Despite the preparation and numerous meetings we had prior to his departure, there are some things I only learned by doing. For me it was four things that stood out: the breadth, the unknown, the scrutiny, and the pressure of Michael’s role. The breadth of his role: A great leader is an inspirational force that drives the organization forward. A great leader provides structure, consistency, and calm. A great leader is beloved. I can say that trying to keep the energy of the team consistent and positive is something we never realized Michael influenced so much. As a leader, regardless of how you feel, how burnt out or tired you are, you have to carry the energy of the company to promote positivity and productivity. It can be a lot of work. The unknown of his role: No matter what’s included in your written roles and responsibilities, there are always curveballs being thrown at the leader. The leader must respond, but there is no way to prepare for every potential problem that arises. To step in as the leader means you have to make decisions as problems arise, inspire others to trust you, and get results. The scrutiny of his role: As a leader you stand in the spotlight. The whole company—the whole community—watches you. You are an easy target for scrutiny, not just admiration. In stepping into the role of a highly respected leader, we have approached decisions differently than Michael probably would have.  Some for better (we think) and some for worse (we have found out), but we are under surveillance from not only our co-workers, but our clients. We have come to the conclusion that all we can do is our best, and we’ve relied on our Core Values for much of the guidance. The pressures of his role: The care you have for your clients can be overwhelming when something unforeseen affects their businesses. Without Michael as my buffer, I go home at night feeling like I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I feel an undeniable sense of pressure as the one solely responsible for running our engagements effectively. Bottom Line Being a leader comes with a price. It’s harder than we thought it would be. We’ve had to rely on one another to carry us through burn out, frustrations, and not knowing how to handle the unknown. We’ve had to inspire each other to keep marching forward. Yet through the wins as well as setbacks, we are better leaders than we were before. We have realized the honor it is to be able to make decisions, and know that the owner of the company trusts us to make success happen. We have grown into a new level of ownership in the company. Change can disrupt. It can inspire. It will certainly force you to grow. It will never go back to the way it was—that’s what makes it an opportunity. I have no doubt that Michael will return to a team of managers who have a greater respect for his role and are happy to turn over much of the responsibility, but who will be more actively involved in setting the direction of the company and devoted to making it happen. This is Part III of a IV Part Series from Michael Gunther about his entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. 

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