In his book, Who’s Holding Your Ladder?”, Dr. Samuel Chand recounts an experience he had that led to a poignant aha moment while waiting for an appointment. He was observing a workman on a ladder painting a building. The workman had climbed the ladder as far as he could but then had to extend his arm to perform his task.
Dr. Chand noticed that the workman could only reach so far without losing his balance. What he also noticed was that if the ladder were not held steady, it greatly decreased the workman’s confidence about stretching beyond the ladder. This brought Dr. Chand’s attention to who was holding the workman’s ladder? Was the ladder holder watching the workman so that he could anticipate what the workman’s need might be while on the upper rungs or was he just holding the ladder in place and not really paying attention to the workman’s activity?
Dr. Chand’s Aha! moment was that who is holding your ladder and what they are focused on while you are on the ladder can make a huge difference in how far you ascend the ladder and how far you stretch beyond the ladder. Dr. Chand goes on to describe how leaders must be anchored by a supportive team that holds the leader’s vision. It is a powerful insight Dr. Chand gleaned from a seemingly mundane observation. Written and intended for leaders in ministry, parallels can be drawn for those of us working within corporations or even running our own businesses.
So much of our success and drive depends on our internal compass; what we think, how we feel, what we believe about ourselves and what gremlins we breathe life into. It is, without question, ultimately up to us. But who have you appointed to the key position of ladder holder? Are they competent and dependable? Are they respected, respectful and trustworthy? Can they anticipate your needs or help you avoid potential land mines? Most important of all, do they hold your vision and mission?
It is so tempting to try and go it alone. Particularly women, who are inundated with subtle and not so subtle messages that we are not enough. As a result, we put a lot of effort into proving everyone wrong. So we start our climb by ourselves, usually saddled with expectations and some self-doubt. We have the top of the ladder in our sights, but the most important dynamic isn’t where the ladder leads. Its how the ladder is anchored. Dr. Chand observed that the painter had extended as far as he could, and if he were to go any higher or reach any further, he would need help.
Notes Dr. Chand, “No leader gets to the top without those down below who hold the ladder.” He further notes that “whether in management or systems, the effectiveness of a leader depends on the person or persons who hold the ladder – those who are in support roles.” Dr. Chand says he couldn’t see who was holding the painter’s ladder. That’s often the case, he says, that the people in support roles do their work in the background, often unseen. But the fact of the matter is, they are just as important as the leader.
These insights apply to our personal lives as well. Who is in your inner circle? What is the quality of the energy they contribute to your life? Are they encouraging and uplifting, leaving you feeling energetic and inspired? Or are they negative and toxic leaving you feeling less confidant, drained and worn out? It is so important that we surround ourselves – hand pick our inner circle – our ladder holders – with people who wish for us nothing but our highest good. As the first quarter of this year ends, now is a good time to conduct the first audit.
Who’s holding your ladder? Are you clear about what you need in your ladder holders or inner circle? Are their values, qualities and vision aligned with yours? If not, then some change may be in order.
You 3.0 Question of the Week: What values, qualities and characteristics do you require of your ladder holders?
Dr. Chand is President Emeritus of Beulah Heights University and author of 11 books.